IDEA/Special Education

Senate Passes ESEA Reauthorization Bill, Sets Stage for Conference Committee

Less than two weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives moved to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by passing the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), the Senate followed suit by passing the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) by a vote of 81 to 17.

This historic achievement comes seven years after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was due for reauthorization. The bill was opposed by 14 Republicans who felt the bill did not go far enough to restore local control in education and three Democrats because of concerns over missing civil rights provisions.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) issued the following statement after the bill passed the Senate:

“Last week, Newsweek Magazine called this the ‘law that everyone wants to fix’—and today the Senate’s shown that not only is there broad consensus on the need to fix this law—remarkably, there’s also broad consensus on how to fix it.”

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Committees Advance Education Funding Bills

The Republicans on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees continue to move forward with their goal of passing all 12 appropriations bills before the September 30 deadline, but not without a fight from the White House and Committee Democrats who have serious concerns with the proposed funding levels in the FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED) Appropriations bills. They believe that in order to provide robust funding for education, the sequester caps must be increased by striking a deal similar to the Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreement in 2013.

For the first time in six years, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the L-HHS-ED Appropriations bill, which was approved on a party-line vote of 30-21 on June 24. The bill would cut funding for the Department of Education by $2.8 billion while also eliminating 27 education programs, including the School Leadership Program, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, School Improvement State Grants, Investing in Innovation (i3), and Preschool Development Grants among others.

The bill does provide small increases for Title I, IDEA, Head Start, Impact Aid, and Charter School Grants to name a few. The Committee for Education Funding (CEF) created a full summary of the House L-HHS-ED bill, which can be accessed here. (more…)

Title I & IDEA See Minimal Increases in FY15 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Tuesday night, the House of Representatives released a massive omnibus appropriations bill that combined 11 of the 12 individual appropriations bills into one large spending bill that covers every facet of federal spending—including investments in education. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security will be under a Continuing Resolution (CR) until March 2015. The House is expected to take action on the spending bill on Thursday with the Senate to follow suit on the weekend or early next week. There will likely be a one to two day CR to allow enough time for both the House and Senate to act since the current CR expires on Thursday, December 11.

Unfortunately, due to budget caps established in December 2013, many education programs did not see any increases in funding, and several were cut, including two programs NASSP has consistently advocated for: the School Leadership Program and the High School Graduation Initiative. Title II, Part A funds for improving teacher and principal quality and career and technical education state grants were flat-funded at their FY14 levels, leaving those programs at $2.3 billion and $1.1 billion respectively. (more…)

Private School Voucher Bill Introduced in House

Today, Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced the House companion bill to Senator Tim Scott’s (R-SC) Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education, also called the CHOICE Act.  The bill has yet to be assigned a bill number or posted on www.thomas.gov but the legislation will mirror the Senate version (S. 1909), which was introduced earlier this year.  Both versions of the CHOICE Act will funnel over $11 billion of taxpayer money to private schools.  NASSP has opposed this bill and has a long standing position statement on private school vouchers.  We are especially concerned with the CHOICE Act as it would shift scarce public funds for special education to private institutions which are not bound by federal and state laws and regulations on staffing, programming and personalization for students with disabilities. (more…)