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GOVERNMENT RELATIONS


Federal Legislative Report 114-5

Delivered via email: July 9, 2015

REAUTHORIZATION OF THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT MOVES FORWARD

House

The House passed H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, yesterday (July 8) evening by a vote of 218 to 213. Key provisions of the bill focus specifically on ensuring that the U.S. Department of Education does not encroach on local school board governance. It also provides states and local districts with the flexibility they need to create and implement innovative approaches to improve academic performance. Additionally, it eliminates sanctions and the punitive nature of Adequate Yearly Progress.

Some negative aspects of the bill include allowing portability of Title I funds, which could impact resources between Title I and non-Title I schools including factors such as remediation and tutoring, staffing for effective teachers and specialists, and after-school programming. The legislation also authorizes level funding for Title I for each of the fiscal years 2016-2021, as a result of sequestration.

Two amendments of note that were adopted before passage:

  • Amendment No. 3 by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) that would allow parents to opt their student out of the testing required under H.R. 5 and exempt schools from including students that have opted out in the schools’ participation requirements was ADOPTED 251 – 178.
  • Amendment No. 30 by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) to clarify that states may withdraw from the Common Core State Standards or any other state standards without any penalty from the U.S. Secretary of Education was ADOPTED 373 – 57.

Senate

The Senate is continuing to work on their version (S. 1177, Every Child Achieves Act) (see FLR 114-3) on the Senate floor. They have spent several days debating various amendments, a few of note are:

  • Amendment No. 2079 by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), who is a former school board member, states that nothing in the Act shall be construed to allow the secretary to:
    • exercise any governance or authority over school administration, including the development and expenditure of school budgets, unless otherwise authorized under this Act;
    • issue any regulation without first complying with the rulemaking requirements of section 553 of title 5, United States Code; or
    • issue any non-regulatory guidance without first, to the extent feasible, considering input from stakeholders.
    The amendment passed by voice vote, which is important to note that it was considered non-controversial and strongly supported.
  • Amendment No. 2139 by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would restructure the Title I program into individual scholarships for vouchers. The amendment failed by a vote of 52 to 45.

What’s Next?

No one is quite sure what the time frame is in the Senate because there are several unfinished amendments under discussion that have not been filed yet.

Once the Senate passes S. 1177, the House and Senate will submit members to participate in a Conference Committee. The House authority in the Conference Committee will be diminished because their bill was only supported by Republicans, and not all Republicans.   The Senate version is bipartisan.

The President had previously threatened to veto H.R. 5, but made no comments on S. 1177.   Thus, the Conference Committee work is extremely important in this process to find a balance between the wishes of Democrats and Republicans.

SENATE AMENDMENT DETRIMENTAL TO ILLINOIS SCHOOL DISTRICTS

We have learned that Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) is working on an amendment that would have a devastating effect on school districts in Illinois. His amendment would change the way Title I education dollars flow to states and the result for Illinois is that districts, especially in rural Illinois, would lose significant federal funding from this critical program.   The estimated loss is over $181 million in federal education funding, nearly 1/3 of the federal Title I dollars Illinois currently receives to help low-income students succeed in school.

Senator Durbin has publicly opposed the amendment, so please contact his office and let him know you support his position. Please contact Senator Kirk’s office and urge him to oppose this amendment as well.

This Federal Legislative Report is used to forward information on federal issues from NSBA and other federal sources. Those interested in additional information or signing up for these free reports should contact Susan Hilton.

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