Weekly Federal Education Policy Update

On December 2, 2011, in Weekly Update, by Mary Kingston


FY 2012 Budget/Appropriations: We are currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that runs through December 16 and funds most programs at FY 2011 levels. Speaker Boehner this week said he is opposed to a year-long CR largely because a year-long CR would have lower defense numbers. Also, according to an article from Congressional Quarterly, “Of the nine remaining bills, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill is the most contentious because it includes funding for the new health care law. Republican and Democratic negotiators remain miles apart on the Labor-HHS measure, an appropriations aide said.” It is speculated that we could have a CR that runs until February. Further, the House is extending its session by a week to meet the week of December 12 as some Republicans are expected to offer an omnibus spending package (many appropriations bills combined into one) on December 15.

ESEA: The Senate is expected to release their report on Senator Harkin’s (D-IA) ESEA draft bill within the next few weeks. As for the House, we have not heard any news on any movement of additional bills as part of their piecemeal approach, making it certain that nothing more with ESEA will happen in this calendar year. We remain hopeful that movement on ESEA will continue sometime soon in 2012.

NCLB Waivers: 11 states applied to the first-round deadline of November 14. Twenty-eight more states are expected to apply for the second round deadline, which is February 21. See the article below in the “News” section for an analysis of the submitted waiver applications.

The Threat of Sequestration to Education: As a quick refresher, you will recall that the 12-member bipartisan “Supercommittee” tasked with submitting a plan to reduce at least $1.2 trillion more from the federal deficit failed to come up with any plan. As stipulated in this August’s Budget Control Act, Congress must now enact a process called sequestration which implements across-the-board cuts to all federal agencies starting on January 2, 2013. The education community is very disappointed in the failure of the Supercommittee and is worried about this resulting threat of sequestration since education would be cut by an untenable amount. (For more information, see a letter sent by NASSP coalition partner Committee for Education Funding on the impact of sequestration on education: http://cef.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Joint-Committee.pdf). Various members of Congress are already trying to propose alternate plans for sequestration. Speaker Boehner has called on President Obama to help stop the defense sequestration cuts; House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan has said he plans to revise sequestration for defense in his FY 13 budget; and House Majority Leader Cantor is also circulating ideas (see Cantor floats year-end trigger bargain).

NASSP Signs on to Coalition Letter in Support of Fix America’s Schools Today Act: NASSP, along with an impressive list of 172 other organizations, has signed onto a coalition letter to urge members of Congress to support the Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST) Act, S.1597. To quote the letter: “The FAST Act will invest resources to repair, renovate and modernize America’s schools and community colleges while stimulating and creating some 300,000 jobs. The Fix America’s School’s Act will provide grants to states and local communities helping local communities provide modern, more energy efficient, greener and better schools and community colleges, improving the learning environment for students and enhancing the workplace for students, teachers and staff.  School and community college renovation and repair projects will generate local jobs as modern schools advance student achievement in urban, rural and suburban communities in every state.” For the entire letter go here: http://cef.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/FAST-Group-Sign-on-December-20111.pdf

Please contact your Senators and urge them to support this bill!


NCLB Waiver First-Round Applicants Show Wide Variation in Proposed State Accountability Systems

Eleven states applied to the U.S. Department of Education’s first round deadline for waivers from certain regulations of No Child Left Behind, and an Education Week article finds that these states propose very different accountability systems. Tasked with designing their own “annual measurable objectives” for student performance that will replace their AYP targets, these eleven states have proposed widely varying student achievement targets. Additionally, the proposed factors that comprise a school’s ranking vary widely by state, with some states using a letter-grade system and others using scores, or indices. Read the article here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/12/02/13waivers_ep.h31.html?tkn=LWPFP%2FSl%2B23nE2DM93JgKs8UvTSsWgxzj4zC&cmp=clp-edweek.

School Districts, Colleges, and Universities Can Legally Consider Race to Make Decisions about School Assignments and Admissions

Federal civil rights officials this week made the decision that race can be considered in decisions on school assignments, admissions, and other programs that are intended to increase racial diversity. The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education together released these new guidelines, which will be sent to the roughly 15,000 school districts and 3,000 colleges and universities that receive federal funding. Read the article here: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2011/12/civil_rights_officials_issue_m.html

Nearly All Schools Can Now Track Data on Students

As described in a report released by the Data Quality Campaign, nearly all schools now have sophisticated data systems that can track students’ academic careers over time. Just as important, the data is now more accessible to relevant stakeholders. Data Quality Campaign Executive Director Aimee R. Guidera notes that “There’s been incredible progress this year in states’ ability to provide access to stakeholders, including teachers and principals and parents.” Read the rest of the article here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/12/01/13data.h31.html?tkn=TZQFznRHcGZ8SbQSzM1nG2qT3buG%2FErmAwv6&cmp=clp-edweek.


Department of Education’s Report on Comparability: The Department of Education yesterday released a new report and a policy brief on school level spending within school districts and comparability. More Than 40% of Low-Income Schools Don’t Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds, Department of Education Research Finds

Report on State Fiscal Conditions: The National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers this week released the Fall 2011 Fiscal Condition of States. According to the report, “In fiscal 2011, the program areas where many states made mid-year general fund expenditure cuts were K-12 and higher education, as 18 states reduced K-12 education and 19 states cut higher education.”  Also, “While fiscal 2012 state enacted budgets show a combined $19.4 billion increase in general fund spending for Medicaid, general fund spending on higher education was reduced by $3.2 billion. Additionally, although K-12 education saw an overall increase in funding, there were 12 states which enacted reductions in K-12 general fund spending.”


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