Education Week - October 23, 2013 - (Page 14)
For Fiscal Fight
By Alyson Klein
School districts anxiously awaiting another
round of across-the-board cuts to federal education
programs will have to endure another
few months of uncertainty, under a bipartisan
deal that put an end to the first government
shutdown in nearly two decades and prevented
the nation from defaulting on its debt.
Instead of breathing a sigh of relief as the
impasse came to an end last week, education
advocates are steeling themselves for yet another
high-stakes budget battle. The agreement
signed by President Barack Obama Oct.
17 to the end the partial shutdown would keep
all programs in the U.S. Department of Education
running at current funding levels until
Jan. 15. That means the automatic, acrossthe-board
cuts known as sequestration will
remain in place temporarily, although the door
is open for lawmakers to negotiate a long-term
reprieve from the reductions.
Focus of Debate
The cuts are expected to be a central point of
debate in the next round of budget wrangling,
which will likely continue to consume the nation's
capital for the next several months.
Meanwhile, K-12 schools were largely
spared the brunt of the impact from the government
shutdown, since most federal aid
flows to districts over the summer.
But Head Start, an early-childhood education
program administered by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services,
and Impact Aid, which helps districts make
up for tax revenue lost because of a federal
presence in their backyard, were exceptions.
The end of the shutdown came just in the
nick of time for both programs, which would
have faced massive disruptions if the budget
Leader Harry Reid,
details of a deal to
end the government
shutdown last week.
passed by Congress
and signed by
funded at current
levels until Jan. 15.
But the prospect of
funding cuts to
education and other
standoff had dragged on much longer.
The agreement, which also raises the debt
ceiling until Feb. 7, sets up a bipartisan budget
conference committee, which must report
by Dec. 13 with a list of recommendations
for coping with the nation's long-term budget
woes, including sequestration. The cuts,
which were put in place in the summer of
2011 as part of another deal to raise the debt
ceiling, hit both domestic programs favored
by Democrats, and defense spending, favored
The next few months may present the
clearest opportunity for education advocates
to turn off the automatic sequestration cuts,
analysts say. Getting rid of them could be a lot
tougher if the cuts remain well into 2014, an
election year. Sequestration is slated to stay in
place for a decade unless lawmakers come up
with some sort of alternative solution.
"If they don't do it now, there's this feeling in
the education community that the sequestration
cuts are permanent," said Michael Griffith,
a school finance consultant for the Education
Commission of the States in Denver.
And Joel Packer, the executive director of the
Committee for Education Funding, an education
lobbying coalition in Washington, said he
is "mildly hopeful" that Congress might spare
districts from the sequester, even if temporarily.
He's hoping that the defense industry
might be persuasive with GOP lawmakers: The
next round of cuts, slated for January, would
hit military spending particularly hard, which
might amp up the pressure on Republicans to
make changes to the entire sequester.
Education advocates see a potential champion
in one of the budget panel's leaders, Sen.
Patty Murray, D-Wash., a former preschool
teacher who has been vocal about the effect of
the sequester on education. The other leader
is Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a former vice-presidential
candidate, whose austere budget pro-
posal spurred criticism from education advocates
during the 2012 election.
The fight over sequestration may only be the
beginning. Lawmakers still need to hammer
out a vision for education spending in fiscal
year 2014-and the GOP-controlled House of
Representatives and the Democratically-controlled
Senate are far apart. When it comes to
spending on health, labor, and education programs,
the House and Senate must bridge a
roughly $42 billion gap, Mr. Packer said.
There will be some big programmatic deci-
sions that could have major implications for the
Obama administration's agenda. For instance, a
spending bill written by Senate Democrats for
fiscal year 2014, which began Oct. 1, includes
a big boost for education. It includes $250 million
for a new version of the administration's
signature Race to the Top competition, aimed
at higher education, plus a $1.6 billion hike for
Head Start and $750 million to help states
revamp early-childhood education-a down
payment on the president's proposed univer-
Illinois Among Outliers With No NCLB Waiver
At issue is state's timeline
for evaluating teachers
By Michele McNeil
Despite having a state law that requires
teachers to be evaluated based on student
performance, Illinois still hasn't been able to
secure a waiver under the No Child Left Behind
Act, even as the vast majority of states
have been awarded the coveted flexibility from
the U.S. Department of Education.
The hang-up? One year.
Illinois' state law puts teacher-evaluation
implementation on a slower track than what
federal officials want, leaving the state to languish
in waiver purgatory-and forcing more
and more districts to fail to meet yearly goals
under the outdated NCLB law.
All but seven states have been granted a
waiver under NCLB.U.S. Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan has even awarded an unprecedented
waiver to eight districts in California.
In exchange for flexibility from many of the
core tenets of the federal school-accountability
law, states (and the California districts) had to
promise on a fast track to adopt college- and
career-ready standards, identify interventions
for the lowest-performing schools, and create
teacher-evaluation systems that are based in
part on student test scores and used to inform
"We're so frustrated with it," said Christo-
pher A. Koch, Illinois' superintendent of education,
of the U.S. Education Department's
rules for handing out waivers-adding in an
interview that Mr. Duncan and his staff concocted
this timeline on their own.
"There is no provision in the law for any of
it," he said. "They are making it up. I have a
hard time explaining it with any rational defense
to my school districts."
Standoff With Feds
The 2010 law in Illinois, passed before
President Barack Obama even announced
plans for waivers, calls for full implementation
of a new teacher-evaluation system in all
districts by the 2016-17 school year. To get a
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 23, 2013 | www.edweek.org
federal waiver, states have to fully implement
their new evaluations by 2015-16. (The earliest
waiver states had to pledge to implement
teacher evaluations by 2014-15.)
Illinois is not budging on its timeline, and so
far, neither are federal officials.
But state officials are growing optimistic.
They say they anticipate that Illinois will
get a waiver in time for the start of the 201415
school year, in large part because enough
time has gone by that federal officials can see
that the state is faithfully implementing the
"We are more hopeful now that the depart-
ment has seen what's going on here as far as
the commitment that we have," Illinois board
of education spokesman Matt Vanover said.
A U.S. education department official indicated
that the impasse may not be permanent,
and the federal agency is still working with
the state to identify a way Illinois can meet
Already, the department has recognized that
a piece of its original timeline was untenable
for some states. The department has offered
the early-round waiver states an extra year
to incorporate personnel decisions into their
evaluation systems. But federal officials so far
have not shown a willingness to adjust other
timelines-even to benefit the home state of Mr.
Obama and Mr. Duncan.
The result is that schools and districts in Illinois
are still subject to NCLB, which requires
states to set increasingly higher goals for
schools, culminating in 100 percent student
proficiency by the end of this school year. (Illinois
did get a one-year freeze from federal
officials for those goals, or "annual measurable
objectives," but that freeze has since expired.)
Last year, 66 percent of Illinois' schools
failed to make adequate yearly progress, or
AYP, under federal law. On Oct. 31, the state
will release the latest student achievement results.
State officials are expecting those failure
rates to climb higher.
'Workable, Honest' Time Frame
But what's standing between Illinois and its
waiver isn't insignificant, said Anne Hyslop, a
policy analyst who has been studying waiver
implementation at the New America Foundation,
a Washington think tank.
She points to the fine details of Illinois' implementation.
During the 2015-16 school year,
the lowest-performing 20 percent of districts
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 23, 2013
Education Week - October 23, 2013
Colorado Tax Boosting K-12 Up to Voters
Paddling Persists in U.S. Schools
Health-Care Law Raises Questions For Districts
K12 Inc. Learning Difficult Lessons This School Year
News in Brief
New Student Majority in South and West: Poor Children
School Poverty Said to Hurt College Access
Media Group Calls on Companies To Protect Students’ Personal Data
D.C. Teachers Improved After Overhaul Of Evaluations, Pay
Blogs of the Week
K-12 Advocates Remain Braced For Fiscal Fight
Illinois Among Outliers With No NCLB Waiver
Appeal Argued on Affirmative-Action Ban
The Public School Ownership Gap
We Need a National Monument to Teachers
Changing the World, One Student at a Time
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Common Core’s Power for Disadvantaged Students
Education Week - October 23, 2013