Education Week - February 17, 2016 - (Page 14)

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS Obama Budget Doubles as Policy Document Next: a skeptical Congress By Alyson Klein President Barack Obama's final budget blueprint seeks to continue federal investments in long-standing priorities-including earlychildhood education and scaling up promising district practices-and a new area of focus: socioeconomic integration. The spending plan, which the GOP Congress is unlikely to adopt wholesale, would largely take effect in the 2017-18 school year. That's the first year that schools will be operating under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Obama administration's fiscal 2017 spending plan makes room for some new ESSA programs, including a flexible block grant for districts and resources to help states and districts pare back the number of tests students take. But it would essentially flat-fund programs that nearly all school districts depend on to educate students in special education and those who are disadvantaged or in lowperforming schools. The budget asks for a modest boost overall for the U.S. Department of Education-$69.4 billion in discretionary funding, or a 1.9 percent increase over current levels. "The president's budget reflects the administration's broader efforts to expand opportunity and ensure every child can achieve his or her full potential," said acting Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a statement. "We have made tremendous progress with record high school graduation rates and more students of color going to college, but we have further to go to ensure that educational excellence is a reality for all students." GOP lawmakers, however, quickly threw cold water on the president's $4.1 trillion proposal for the federal government as a whole. "Once again, President Obama's proposed budget spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much, and won't go anywhere in a Republican Congress," U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, said in a statement. "Instead of confronting our $19 trillion federal debt, President Obama wants to keep us on an unsustainable fiscal path that would pass along even more debt to future generations." Integration Focus The Education Department budget request includes $120 million for Stronger Together, a new competitive-grant program aimed a helping schools become more socioeconomically diverse. The money would go to districts, or groups of districts, that have big achievement gaps and problems with socioeconomic integration. The grants could be used either to help those districts figure out a plan to address the problems or to implement a strategy that's already been devised. The focus on integration isn't a surprise: King has made the issue a theme of recent speeches. And in a blog post published Feb. 9, the day the budget was released, he made the case for the new grant program, arguing that diversity can help get better outcomes for all students-and that it can help address big gaps in resource equity. "It's hard to miss the fact that when the children of welders and bankers are confined to separate schools, access to opportunity is not equal," King wrote. "It's no secret whose school ends up with the resources to succeed-from shiny new buildings with updated technology to [Advanced Placement] courses that will set them up for success in college." The integration emphasis is carried over into other parts of the education budget request. The president also wants $115 million for magnet schools, up from $96 million currently, in part for competitive grants to support desegregation efforts. Plus, the budget seeks an additional $17 million for the charter school program, which would bring it to $350 million. The department would target funding for expansion grants to charter-management organizations that op- DIVIDING THE PIE Proposed discretionary spending on education in federal fiscal year 2017 falls into a few broad categories, with financial aid for higher education, including Pell grants for low-income students, continuing to make up the largest slice. 35ll% / Pe t aid Studen 19c% ial 24t% her All o ms progra 22% I Title Spe tion Educa SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education PAGE 18 > Lawmakers Pledging to Keep Close Eye on ESSA Implementation By Alyson Klein Washington Lawmakers on the House education committee have a not-so-subtle message for states and the U.S. Department of Education as they move to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act: We'll be watching you. Republicans on a panel holding an oversight hearing last week seemed to be trying to cut potential federal overreach off at the pass, making it clear that, in their view, the law is aimed at returning key authority over K-12 schools to states and districts. ESSA "includes more than 50 provisions to keep the Department of Education in check" on accountability, standards, assessments, and more, Rep. Todd Rokita, the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees K-12 policy, said in his Feb. 10 opening statement. "Congress promised to restore state and local control over K-12 education, and now, it's our job to ensure that promise is kept." Meanwhile, Democrats made it equally clear they'll be keeping their eye on the department and states to make sure that they don't use this newfound flexibility to trample on protections for historically overlooked groups of students, such as English-language learners and those in special education. "The U.S. Department of Education will need to ensure that states are putting children first," said Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, the top Democrat on the subcommittee. To be sure, this rhetoric is all pretty preliminary. States are still mulling their ESSA plans, and the department hasn't even specified the areas of the law on which it will be issuing regulations. But the different takes on ESSA oversight should come as no surprise to anyone who followed the development of the legislation closely. ESSA-which passed with big, bipartisan support late last year-seeks to strike a delicate balance between giving states and districts much greater leeway on K-12 and continuing the federal role in looking out for vulnerable groups of students. 'Trust Us' State and district leaders who testified before the subcommittee-Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma's superintendent of public instruction, and Paul "Vic" Wilson, the superintendent of the Hartselle district in Alabama, had their own message for federal officials: Trust us. "States are not only ready, but we are willing and able to lead," Hofmeister said, noting that states have already raised standards and improved tests. "Future regulations should focus on providing states with guidance, clarification, and support, not prescription or compliance." What's more, an alphabet soup of 10 14 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 17, 2016 | groups representing superintendents, principals, state and local board members, state lawmakers, and teachers sent a letter to acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. that same day, letting him know that they'll be working together to promote state, " Congress promised to restore state and local control over K-12 education, and now it's our job to ensure that promise is kept." REP. TODD ROKITA, R-IND. Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education local, and school decisionmaking when it comes to ESSA regulation. But Selene Almazan, the legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which works to protect the civil rights of students in special education, sees a pivotal role for the federal government in making sure states look out for low-income children, racial minorities, students in special education, and others. "Past history shows that states often set expectations far too low, which leads directly to low student achievement, impacting our most disadvantaged students," she said in written testimony. One particular exchange encapsulated both sides of the argument: During her testimony, Hofmeister said she's not thrilled with every part of her state's accountability system. The way that the Sooner State calculates the performance of subgroup students can "mask gaps." Oklahoma will likely revisit that portion of its system when it designs its new accountability system under ESSA, she said. Standards and Enforcement Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., seized on that, asking her how the federal government can make sure that other states don't use their newfound flexibility to "sweep the performance of low-performing subgroups of students under the rug." "We have to accept the fact that at the state level, I am held accountable to the people of the state of Oklahoma," she responded. (Hofmeister is an elected chief.) Polis noted, though, that she's elected by a majority in Oklahoma, but required to look after minority rights. "There's more to it than just politics," he said. "There's a civil rights issue that transcends politics." Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also sought to clear up areas where they seem to think that messaging on ESSA has been muddled. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who was an architect of the law, said he's dismayed with some of the rhetoric coming out of the Department of Education on areas like standards. The law calls for states to adopt standards that get students ready for credit-bearing coursework and, in Kline's view, the department has been twisting that language to make it sound like the law still somehow endorses something like the Common Core State Standards-which wasn't his intention. For her part, Rep. Suzanne Bonaminci, D-Ore., said there's nothing in ESSA that inhibits the department's authority to enforce the law. And one of the witnesses called by Republicans, Kent Talbert, the general counsel at the Education Department under President George W. Bush, agreed that the law's laundry list of secretarial prohibitions doesn't hinder enforcement authority. But he also said, in general, the department should tread carefully. If it oversteps its bounds in regulation, it could open itself up to lawsuits. Even though this was the House's first ESSA oversight hearing, it won't be the last: The panel has already invited King to testify on the budget, and again solely on ESSA implementation and oversight.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 17, 2016

Education Week - February 17, 2016
Preservice Programs Seek To Head Off Teacher Biases
Black Male Teachers a Rarity
Consolidation Fight Erupts In Vermont
In Cities With Choice, Single- Enrollment Systems Hit Hurdles
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Letting Students Work From Home Adds Policy Twist
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Q&A: Principals Urged To ‘Shadow’ Students
Study: Showing Standout Work To Students Can Backfire
U.S. Manages to Reduce Share Of Low PISA Scores— in Science
Blogs of the Week
Lawmakers Pledging to Keep Close Eye on ESSA Implementation
Obama Budget Doubles As Policy Document
Blogs of the Week
Five-State Study Examines Teaching Shifts Under Core
Kansas High Court Strikes Down Stopgap Aid Formula
State of the States
Increased Accountability of Teacher Prep Gives Equity the Back Seat
Self-Care Is the Educator’s Core Standard
Beware the Racist Subtext Of Children’s Books
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Dispatch From Flint, Mich.: Our Water Crisis Is a Crisis of Trust

Education Week - February 17, 2016