ESSA Oversight Hearing Notice
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) has scheduled an oversight hearing this week on “The Every Student Succeeds Act: States Leading the Way.” Witnesses are Matthew Blomstedt, Commissioner of the Nebraska Department of Education; Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education; Shavar Jeffries, President of Democrats for Education Reform; and, Molly Spearman, Superintendent of the South Carolina Department of Education. The Committee’s oversight hearing comes as the U.S. Department of Education continues efforts to bring the ESSA state consolidated planning process to a close and to update the Consolidated State Reporting template that will serve as a basis for ESSA data collection and program oversight, including future desk and field audits. The Department issued public notices in late 2017 and early 2018 seeking public input on the reporting template and process. The hearing will be broadcast via live stream here at 10:00 am on Tuesday, September 25.
The Committee has asked witnesses to prepare for a discussion about the following questions:
- What is your state doing differently now, compared to what was done under NCLB and the ESEA waivers framework?
- What factors, other than test scores, are being used to measure a schools’ performance and school quality?
- What innovative school improvement approaches are you pursuing for the lowest performing schools?
- What has your communication and engagement been like with the U.S. Department of Education, school districts, and other stakeholders?
- What positive developments and challenges has your state faced during the first few years of implementation?
Congress Continues Progress on Fiscal Year 2019 Education Funding
The Senate recently voted 93 to 7 in favor of the FY 2019 appropriations bill for the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services and Defense (H.R. 6157). The House is expected to vote on the measure this week, before the new federal fiscal year begins on October 1. President Trump has expressed concerns about the size of the bill and the lack of funding for a southern border wall; but, he has not signaled that he will veto it. If President Trump does sign the bill, it will be the first time since the 1990s that the Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill was completed prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.
According to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), “The bill prioritizes formula grants that provide the most flexibility for states and school districts to decide how to best use limited resources to meet the educational needs of students and families. The bill includes a combined $299 million increase for: Title I Grants to school districts; IDEA/Special Education State grants; [Title IV] Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants; and Impact Aid.” Funding for professional development for K-12 teachers would remain consistent at $2.1 billion. Overall, this agreement would provide $71.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Education (a $1 billion increase compared to FY2018).
The House-Senate conference committee agreement for this bill also includes two non-funding provisions regarding school safety and infrastructure:
- Within existing School Safety National Activities funding provided in the bill, the agreement specifies that not more than $10 million may be used for a demonstration program to test and evaluate innovative partnerships between higher education institutions and States – or high need school districts – to train school counselors, social workers, psychologists, or other mental health professionals qualified to provide school-based mental health services, with the goal expanding the pipeline of these workers into low-income public elementary schools and secondary schools in order to address the shortages of mental health service professionals in such schools.
- Direction to the Comptroller General to conduct a study on the condition of the public-school facilities (including charter schools) of the United States and their adequacy to support a 21st century education.
Senate and House Continue to Negotiate the Farm Bill
As the Senate and House farm bill conference committee continue negotiations, NSBA staff is actively advocating for increased flexibility for local school districts implementing child nutrition programs. In addition, to supporting language in the House-passed bill that would add school boards to the list of school leaders the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture must consult when considering new regulations related to child nutrition programs, NSBA also weighed in on language included in the Senate-passed bill related to the “Buy American” provision. Specifically, NSBA sent this letter to Senate leaders opposing language that could potentially require school districts to apply for waivers when purchasing foreign goods. While NSBA fully supports the current “Buy American” provision, we are concerned that many school districts will not have the administrative capacity to comply with the added regulation. We will continue monitoring the conference committee negotiations.
NSBA Participants in U.S Department of Agriculture School Meals Roundtable
On September 20, NSBA participated in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to discuss needed regulatory reforms to school meal programs related to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010. The HHFKA expanded federal regulation, far beyond federal school meal programs to school district operations throughout the campus and school day. Through the HHFKA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) created additional regulations regarding nutrition standards and meal patterns, including 100 percent whole-grain requirements, lower sodium and calorie limits, and increased fruit and vegetable servings. School districts across the nation have found the requirements to be burdensome and difficult to implement.
NSBA was represented at the roundtable by school board members from Maryland, Tennessee and South Dakota. The roundtable was held in advance of an expected final rule providing flexibilities for milk, whole grains and sodium requirements. Secretary Perdue suggested the Department might consider additional regulatory actions to provide further flexibilities to school districts but stressed the importance of maintaining nutritious standards. The school board members participating in the event emphasized the importance of including school boards in efforts to reform the current regulations given their role in the implementation process. School board members also stressed the need to return to the five-year administrative review cycle (instead of every three years), allow all items sold in the reimbursement line to also be sold as a la carte items, and to return to offer versus serve to help eliminate plate waste. USDA issued this press release following the event. NSBA staff will continue to advocate for increased flexibilities in school meal programs.
Assistant Secretary Collett Calls for “Rethinking” Special Education
Johnny Collett, Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, has published a blog post calling on policy makers and stakeholders to “[question] everything to ensure nothing limits any student from being prepared for what comes next.” Collett said, “[w]e will partner with parents and families, individuals with disabilities—anyone and everyone who is focused on raising expectations and improving outcomes for individuals with disabilities.” The blog post does not specifically mention the future of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; but, updating the law could be among federal legislators’ education priorities during the 116th Congress. Since IDEA was last updated in 2004, new research has emerged, some special education practices have changed, and other federal and state education policies have evolved. Through the Council of School Attorneys, NSBA has been working on recommendations to help Congress improve IDEA. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months about how you can support this important work.
Department Seeks Additional ESSA Assessment Pilot States
The U.S. Department of Education published a Federal Register notice inviting a second round of applications for the Innovative Assessment Pilot program under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Applications are due December 17, 2018. Louisiana and New Hampshire applied during the first round of submissions. Currently, Louisiana has been approved to participate in this program that permits up to seven states to join the pilot. The Department of Education said the “program is designed to lower barriers to innovation and encourage local involvement in the development of the next generation of assessments. As part of the program, states can pilot new and innovative assessments on a small scale, avoid double-testing students on both pilot and statewide exams, and develop strategies for implementing such innovative assessments statewide over time.”
National Assessment Governing Board Seeks Board Nominees
The National Assessment Governing Board, the entity responsible implementing the National Assessment of Educational Progress, published a notice seeking nominations for seven open positions -- business representative, Chief State School Officer, curriculum specialist, twelfth-grade teacher, local school superintendent, state school board member, and testing and measurement expert -- by October 31. According to the announcement, candidates can nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else. All nominations must include the nominee’s personal statement, his or her resume or curriculum vitae, and at least one letter of support. Please let NSBA know if you would like to submit nominees for this important role.
U.S. Department of Education Emergency Contact Center
The Department of Education has opened its emergency contact center to provide impacted school districts with informational resources, including “relief from agency-based administrative requirements.” Districts can reach the center at 1-844-348-4082 or HurricaneRelief@ed.gov and further information can be accessed on the agency’s Disaster Relief web page.
Courtesy NSBA's Federal Advocacy & Public Policy Update - Week of September 24, 2018