Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 15
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Conservative Group Focusing on ESSA Expands Reach
By Andrew Ujifusa
Among various players like the teachers'
unions looking to influence the Every Student
Succeeds Act at the state level, a group led by
former U.S. Secretary of Education William J.
Bennett is seeking to make its mark.
Conservative Leaders for Education,
which formed in July to push for accountability, high academic standards, local control, and school choice under ESSA, officially
announced Oct. 24 that it had signed up four
state lawmakers and a state school board
member as new members in five states: Alabama, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Joining the Roster
The new members of the organization are:
* Colorado state Sen. Owen Hill;
* Alabama state school board member Mary
* Ohio state Sen. Peggy Lehner;
* Wisconsin state Sen. Luther Olsen; and
* Nevada state Assemblywoman Melissa
All are Republicans. And all, except for
Hunter, are leaders of their respective legislative education committees. Including the
members announced in July, the group can
count nine total state officials as members.
In an interview, Bennett, the group's chair-
man, said it wouldn't be writing model legislation. But he said the participating lawmakers
would share bills they are working on, as well
as thoughts on which policy approaches might
work well in their states and which might run
into problems. Conservative Leaders for Education, he said, is looking for "agents of policy
change" in statehouses when it comes to ESSA.
"We're going about this with all deliberate
speed. We're being very careful about the people we're selecting," said Bennett, who served
as President Ronald Reagan's education secretary from 1985 to 1988. "These are all people
that are very committed to the issues."
Bennett said he had discussed the group's
work with several well-known and likeminded players in the K-12 policy world,
including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Thomas B. Fordham President Chester
E. "Checker" Finn, and Center for Education
Reform founder Jeanne Allen. None of those
people, however, is formally involved with
Conservative Leaders for Education at this
point, Bennett said.
The group's expansion illustrates the jockeying going on to shape how states approach
school improvement, transparency, and accountability under ESSA. The measure gives
state lawmakers significantly more power
over those decisions than they've had in recent years. Back in July, Bennett said he was
worried that not only do Democrats talk like
State legislative leaders among latest recruits
they "own" ESSA, but "in many ways, they
have owned it."
The National Education Association is pushing its members hard to make sure states
don't make just a few tweaks under ESSA and
call it a day. And the union is praising states
that have adopted a "dashboard" approach to
accountability that doesn't require a single,
summative rating for schools. That approach
might not get the approval of the U.S. Department of Education, however.
Former U.S. Secretary
of Education William J. Bennett
leads a new group formed
to push for accountability,
high standards, local control,
and school choice.
Guidance, Hurdles for ESSA's 'Well-Rounded Education' Grant
By Alyson Klein
One of the major goals of the
Every Student Succeeds Act is to
give states and districts significantly
more say in how they spend their
federal dollars. And as a part of that
effort, Congress collapsed a number
of small federal programs aimed at
health, safety, the arts, technology,
and other areas into a broad-based
block grant called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment
grant program, or Title IV of ESSA.
The U.S. Department of Education
recently put out guidance on how
those funds can be spent, even as advocacy groups are sweating over how
much of the $1.5 billion recommended
in the law will actually materialize.
ESSA lays out clear ground rules
for the money. The law requires districts that get more than $30,000 to
spend 20 percent of their money on
an activity that helps students become more well-rounded, and another
20 percent on something that contributes to student health and safety.
Even though districts can spend
their money on technology, no more
than 15 percent can go to technology
infrastructure, such as laptops. Districts that get less than $30,000 don't
need to meet those requirements, according to the guidance.
The department's overall mes-
sage in the guidance is that a "wellrounded education" isn't just about
music and the arts, although those
are important. "Well-rounded" can
include everything from foreign-language courses and civics education to
Advanced Placement and college and
career counseling. And districts can
partner with postsecondary institutions on those programs.
Beyond that, the guidance seeks
to flesh out key points about the
block grant. For example, it makes
clear that even though most of the
money-95 percent-must go to districts, the state will have to devise
districts' applications for the funds.
States can use that opportunity to
influence how districts spend their
money, the guidance says.
States also can offer matching
grants to districts that plan to use
the money for a particular purpose,
such as improving school climate or
putting in place new, more rigorous
classes. And they can encourage districts to apply as a group focused on
a single activity, which might help
the funds go further.
The guidance also sketches out
what should happen in cases in
which a district wants to spend its
money on a program that falls into
both the well-rounded and the health
and safety categories.
What's more, the guidance makes
it clear that districts don't have to
give each of their schools a piece of
the Title IV funding. They can con-
are going to be
a challenge here
because the areas
covered by Title IV
are so expansive."
JOHN B. KING JR.
U.S. Secretary of Education
centrate just on schools that show
the greatest need for the funds.
But it appears that Title IV may get
a lot less money than the law allows.
ESSA recommended $1.5 billion
for the combined block-grant program, but the individual programs
that make up Title IV only added up
to about $280 million in funding this
The Obama administration asked
for $500 million for the program,
and a Senate panel wants $300 million for it. A House panel is seeking
$1 billion, but also looking to eliminate a number of programs that remain on the books.
The budget likely won't be finalized until after the election, so it's
anyone's guess at this point what
spending on the block grant ultimately will be.
U.S. Secretary of Education John
B. King Jr. said on an Oct. 21 conference call with reporters that the new
block-grant program can help states
and districts move beyond what many
perceived as a narrow focus on reading and math under the previous
version of the law, the No Child Left
Noelle Ellerson, the associate executive director of AASA, the School
Superintendents Association, said
there's a lot of interest from local
leaders in a flexible pot of federal
funding that they can use to make
sure students get a well-rounded
education. But she worries that Congress won't provide nearly enough
for the program to fulfill its promise.
"So much of the policy is right," she
said. But without the funding, "you're
cutting off your nose to spite your face."
In fact, if the program is funded at
as little as $300 million, many districts will get only $7,000 or $8,000
to spend, said Jon Bernstein, the
president of Bernstein Strategy
Group, a lobbying organization in
Washington that represents a number of organizations interested in
"You can't do much with that," he
King said the department is working with Congress on appropriations.
He's hoping, he said, that districts
will be able to use some of their state
and other federal funds to supplement programs they decide to spend
their Title IV dollars on.
But he acknowledged that, "certainly, resources are going to be a
challenge here because the areas
covered by Title IV are so expansive."
He added that the department's
proposed, and highly controversial,
regulations on a spending provision
in ESSA known as supplement-notsupplant could help schools serving
low-income students get access to
their fair share of funding. That, he
said, would allow them to make the
most of the block grant.
EDUCATION WEEK | NOVEMBER 2, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 15
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 2, 2016
Education Week - November 2, 2016
Teaching Literature Outside Of English Class
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Citizenship Initiative Will Target State Legislatures
Science Gains Seen at 4th, 8th Grades
African-American Museum Gears Up School Offerings
Principals Work Nearly 60 Hours A Week, According to Study
Conservative Group Focusing On ESSA Expands Reach
Guidance, Hurdles for ESSA’s ‘Well-Rounded Education’ Grant
SNAPSHOT: Tracking the Common Core
News in Brief
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
IN CONVERSATION: Q&A With Joseph Gauld
Election Lesson Reverberates In N.C. District
Education’s Tenuous Toehold on 2016 Ballot
SAM WINEBURG AND SARAH McGREW: What Students Don’t Know About Fact-Checking
BY THE NUMBERS: What Do Budding Voters Think?
MICHAEL J. FEUER: Whither Evidence?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Election Lesson Reverberates In N.C. District
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 2
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 3
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - News in Brief
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Report Roundup
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Science Gains Seen at 4th, 8th Grades
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 7
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 8
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 9
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Principals Work Nearly 60 Hours A Week, According to Study
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 11
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 12
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 13
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 14
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Guidance, Hurdles for ESSA’s ‘Well-Rounded Education’ Grant
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - SNAPSHOT: Tracking the Common Core
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 17
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Education’s Tenuous Toehold on 2016 Ballot
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 19
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 20
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 21
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - SAM WINEBURG AND SARAH McGREW: What Students Don’t Know About Fact-Checking
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - BY THE NUMBERS: What Do Budding Voters Think?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 24
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - Letters
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - 27
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - MICHAEL J. FEUER: Whither Evidence?
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT1
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT2
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT3
Education Week - November 2, 2016 - CT4