• May 2015
  • Brian Zychowski
  • NJASA Advocates for School Children!

    Within the past few weeks, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA).

    The noteworthy part of the Committee’s bipartisan comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind, was a joint ESEA letter sent on April 6th to the members of the U.S. Senate and U. S. House of Representatives.

    The joint letter, written on behalf of AASA and 49 state superintendent associations (all but CA; Hawaii does not have a superintendent association, and NC has two!), urged Congress to act on ESEA reauthorization. I am pleased to share with you NJASA was a signatory of the letter and helpful in brining attention to this pressing need. Kudos to AASA for achieving that kind of broad consensus.

    AASA Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy Noelle Ellerson shares with us the following.

    Our attentions were focused on standards, accountability and assessment. There are other areas where we advocated changes and improvements. Failure to get standards, accountability and assessments correct, though, would have made it nearly impossible for AASA to endorse. By and large, this approach paid off: while the bill preserves standards, accountability and assessments, the granular detail of all three is left to the state/local level to craft and define, those people most closely working to implement said programs, and those with professional education experience.

    ECAA summary highlights include:

    * Standards: Under ECAA, all 50 states must establish challenging academic standards for all students.

    * Accountability: ECAA eliminates 100% proficiency, annual measurable objectives, adequate yearly progress, supplemental education services (and the 20% set-aside) and the highly qualified teacher requirements. The bill still requires states to rank schools (based on achievement), to identify those in need of intervention/improvement, and to describe/determine the turnaround/improvement models they will use. The bill preserves the data disaggregation under current law.

    * Assessments: ECAA preserves current law, with testing required of every student in ELA and math in grades 3-8 (and once in high school) along with grade span testing in science. 

    * A Note on Funding: AASA was deeply concerned with efforts related to portability/vouchers and funding caps. While we had a favorable outcome on both in this Senate bill, it is to be noted that while there are NOT prescriptive funding caps in place, there are expanded allowable uses and block grants. Collectively, this can be a perfect storm for defunding public education. Allowing finite dollars for more uses undermines all programs. Further, the final bill includes an amendment for early education. While AASA strongly supports increased opportunity and quality in early education, we will be aggressive in ensuring that ESEA funding is not siphoned off for early education. Early education and K12 are complementary to each other, and should not be in a position of ‘funding one at the expense of the other’. 

    The next steps involve the consideration of the ECAA bill on the full Senate floor. AASA anticipates some debates related to vouchers and portability. NJASA will continue to inform and update you on these pressing issues as we continue to advocate for school children.


    Editor’s Note – Related AASA ECAA Resource:

    ESEA Side-by-side: Current Law, Student Success Act (HR5) and ECAA