Education Week - October 23, 2013 - (Page 14)

GOVERNMENT&POLITICS K-12 Advocates Remain Braced 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 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., unveils details of a deal to end the government shutdown last week. The agreement passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama keeps federal programs funded at current levels until Jan. 15. But the prospect of additional, across-the-board funding cuts to education and other federal programs remains. 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 by Republicans. 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. Wide Gap 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 personnel decisions. "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 | 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 teacher-evaluation law. "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 federal timelines. 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 Olivier Douliery/Abaca/MCT

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
Report Roundup
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