E-Update for January 15, 2014

E-Update for January 15, 2014

E-Update for January 15, 2014


On the evening of Monday, January 13, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees released a compromise Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus spending bill, which includes $70.6 billion for the Department of Education.  This amount reflects an overall decrease of $739 million compared to Fiscal Year 2013.  We expect Congress to approve the legislation no later than Saturday, January 18. The current continuing resolution expires on Wednesday, so Congress plans to pass a new three day continuing resolution to fund government operations until the Omnibus can be approved and signed by the President.  Assuming the bill is not unexpectedly derailed, this will be the first time in nearly two years since the last Labor-HHS Appropriations bill was negotiated program by program and passed by Congress.

  • The bill provides $14.4 billion for ESEA Title I ($624 million increase compared to FY’13).
  • The bill provides $10.9 billion for the IDEA State Grants program ($497 million increase compared to FY’13).
  • The bill provides $368 million for the State Assessments grants program ($9 million increase compared to FY’13).
  • The bill provided $2.3 billion for the Teacher Quality State grants program ($12 million increase compared to FY’13).
  • The bill provided $284 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund ($5 million increase compared to FY’13).
  • The bill provides $34.5 million for the State Longitudinal Data Systems ($2 million decrease compared to FY’13).
  • The bill provides $505 million for the School Improvement Grants program.  Significantly, the Omnibus includes language to enable states to more flexibly use SIG funding, including allowing states to propose state-developed school improvement models for the Secretary’s approval (moving beyond the four school improvement models presently required under the SIG regulations).  This alternative state model language is similar to Sen. Alexander text approved by the Senate HELP Committee during the ESEA reauthorization markup held in July.
  • The bill provides $250 million for the Race to the Top program.  Despite the Administration’s request to focus the program on higher education innovation,  the FY’14 competition will be focused on helping States develop, enhance or expand high quality preschool programs for children ages 4 and over and from low- and moderate income families or for other State early learning activities that improve the quality of such programs.   The Omnibus also provided significant increases for the Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care and Development Block Grant programs.
  • The bill maintains level funding for the Pell Grant program at $22.8 billion.  Combined with mandatory funding, the total maximum award is estimated to rise by $85 to $5,730. According to the committee, the Department of Education will announce the actual mandatory increase, which is based on calendar year 2013 Consumer Price Index data, next month.
  • The bill provides $75 million for the Administration’s First in the World Initiative (i.e. “grants to colleges and universities to implement innovative and effective strategies that improve educational outcomes and reduce the net price paid by students and families”).


The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is holding a full committee hearing on “Strengthening Federal Access Programs to Meet 21st Century Needs: A Look at TRIO and GEAR UP” on Thursday, January 16, at 10:00am in 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Witnesses to be announced.

New Legislation

H.R.3818 : Thomas Edison BULB Act
Sponsor: Rep Duncan, Jeff [SC-3] (introduced 1/8/2014) Cosponsors (1)

H.R.3841 : To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide that foreign income be considered in the determination of eligibility for grants and loans under that Act.
Sponsor: Rep Grayson, Alan [FL-9] (introduced 1/10/2014) Cosponsors (None)

H.R.3842 : To require the Secretary of Education to conduct a feasibility study for using income tax returns as the primary Federal student aid application.
Sponsor: Rep Grayson, Alan [FL-9] (introduced 1/10/2014) Cosponsors (None)

H.RES.456 : Calling on schools and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed.
Sponsor: Rep Cassidy, Bill [LA-6] (introduced 1/10/2014) Cosponsors (1)

S.1904 : A bill to amend the eligibility requirements for funding under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.
Sponsor: Sen Lee, Mike [UT] (introduced 1/9/2014) Cosponsors (None)

S.1909 : A bill to expand opportunity through greater choice in education, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Scott, Tim [SC] (introduced 1/9/2014) Cosponsors (1)

U.S Department of Education

Partnering with Local Communities: The First Five “Promise Zones” Announced:President Obama plans to announce the first five ‘Promise Zones,’ located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, on January 9.  These communities will get tax breaks and grants to attract private development and improve the quality of life, including education. This initiative is part of an administration interagency collaboration aimed at bolstering economic development in high poverty communities; the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Agriculture will all be involved in these neighborhoods.

U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release School Discipline Guidance Package to Enhance School Climate and Improve School Discipline Policies/Practices: USED, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), released on January 8 a school discipline guidance package that will assist states, districts, and schools in developing practices and strategies to enhance school climate and ensure those policies and practices comply with federal law. Schools can improve safety by making sure that climates are welcoming and that responses to misbehavior are fair, non-discriminatory and effective. The guidance package provides resources for creating safe and positive school climates, which are essential for boosting student academic success and closing achievement gaps. The resource package consists of four components:

  • The Dear Colleague guidance letter on civil rights and discipline, prepared in conjunction with DOJ, describes how schools can meet their legal obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating against students on the basis of race, color or national origin;
  • The Guiding Principles document draws from emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and related action steps that can help guide state and local efforts to improve school climate and school discipline;
  • The Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources indexes the extensive federal technical assistance and other resources related to school discipline and climate available to schools and districts; and
  • The Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations, an online catalogue of the laws and regulations related to school discipline in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, compares laws across states and jurisdictions.

January 8, 2014

U.S. Department of Education and Cleveland Metropolitan School District Reach Agreement to Provide Equal Access to STEM Programs for Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Latino Students: USED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) successfully resolved its compliance review of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District on January 7, entering into an agreement to ensure the District will provide Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Latino students with equal access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs offered at the high school level.

January 7, 2014

Congressional Headlines

Rep. George Miller Announces Retirement: For 40 years, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has served his constituents in California and the American people through his dedication to improving America’s education system. He currently serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee as the Ranking Member. Rep. Miller was a key author of the No Child Left Behind Act and a powerhouse on K-12 policy for decades. In particular, Rep. Miller helped push for language that would call for teachers to be considered “highly qualified,” meaning having a bachelor’s degree and subject-matter certification. He also insisted that schools be held accountable for the progress of minority children, children in special education, and English-language learners, under the NCLB law. Rep. Miller was also a key author of the education portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal economic stimulus program that poured some $100 billion into education. He helped craft language that became the Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation grant programs, which had a major role in shaping the Obama administration’s K-12 policy. Please click here to read Sec. Duncan’s statement and please click here to read Rep. Kline’s statement on Rep. Miller’s retirement announcement.

January 13, 2014

Lee Introduces Bill to Expand Higher Education Opportunities: Sen. Mike Lee (UT) introduced legislation (S.1904) last Thursday, January 9, proposing to permit states to develop their own accreditation systems and promote nontraditional models.  Under Lee’s approach, states could accredit any institution including colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, for-profit businesses and apprenticeship programs — that provides postsecondary courses or programs that can be applied to a degree, credential or professional certification. States would have to enter into agreements with the Education Department before beginning their own accreditation process. Lee does not serve on the HELP Committee.

January 9, 2014

Kline Statement on Anniversary of No Child Left Behind: Rep. Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, issued a statement on January 8 to mark the 12th anniversary of the No Child Left Behind legislation.  In his statement, he explained that “No Child Left Behind ushered in a new era for the nation’s schools, helping identify student achievement gaps and provide critical data to parents and students. However, schools and students still face significant challenges – challenges that simply cannot be fixed with an arbitrary federal waiver program.  … The House-passed Student Success Act would ensure parents, educators, and state and local leaders have the tools and flexibility necessary to improve their schools and help put more kids on track for a successful future.”

January 8, 2014

National and State Headlines

Indiana’s Common-Core ‘Pause’ Might Grow Longer, and Other Testing News: As part of a budget deal approved last summer, Indiana is reviewing the Common Core and is slated to make a call on whether or not to keep the standards this summer, illustrating how Indiana is experiencing a “pause” in its implementation of the standards. State Sen. Luke Kenley, a Republican, has filed a bill in the state legislature that would delay the state board of education’s decision about the common core until July 1, 2015. The bill also states that for school years beginning after June 30, 2016, the state education department would be required “to administer either the ISTEP assessment or a comparable assessment program that is aligned with the educational standards adopted by the state board.” If this bill becomes law, it would extend what has already become a lengthy fight over the Common Core in Indiana, one that extends at least as far back as the start of 2013. The state board is scheduled to receive more public input about the standards over the next few months.

A Maryland legislator, Democratic Rep. Eric Luedtke, has filed a bill that would prohibit the Maryland education department from administering the Maryland School Assessment this coming spring. The Maryland State Education Association and others have argued that the since the MSA is not aligned to the Common Core, which has been implemented in state schools, it no longer makes sense to give it to students, and Rep. Luedtke agrees. The caveat to Rep. Luedtke’s bill is that it stipulates that unless the state receives either a waiver from portions of the No Child Left Behind Act from the federal government regarding the test, or a “response” about the MSA two weeks before the test is due to be administered, the state could not give the MSA “unless the [Maryland] Department determines that the penalty the Department would receive from the [U.S. Department of Education] for not administering the MSA is more than the savings or benefits the Department would receive from not administering the MSA.” That “penalty” seems to be that if the state drops the MSA this spring and does not replace it with a new, comparable assessment that can be used for accountability purposes, it potentially violates the terms of Maryland’s NCLB waiver, which requires such tests.

January 10, 2014

Florida Will Not ‘Punt’ on Common-Core Tests, Commissioner Stewart Tells Lawmakers: Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart recently touched on several issues related to both the Common Core State Standards and their associated assessments. While she didn’t get into more illuminating details on those fronts, Ms. Stewart did say that the state will not “punt” on its selection of assessments. According to the timeline Stewart provided to lawmakers, the state will actually make the decision about the next assessment to use in March. She added that the state will “have what we need to have in place” for the 2014-15 school year tests by June 2014.

January 8, 2014

N.Y. Assembly Speaker: ‘Case Has Been Made’ for Common Core Delay: New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat representing Manhattan, has publicly stated that “the case has been made for a common core delay” for New York schools. He has grown increasingly concerned that the standards in English/language arts and mathematics were “suddenly put upon” teachers and administrators in the state without adequate support and professional development. Mr. Silver noted that Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch last month appointed a committee to review common-core implementation in New York, and that this committee is working on a “small timeline.”

January 8, 2014

California State Board Set to Consider New, Hotly Contested Funding Rules: The state school board has posted revised regulations for the Local Control Funding Formula and will officially consider them at its January 16 meeting. Although a great deal of attention was paid to the formula’s passage last year, lawmakers left up to the state board many of the details about the overhaul, which will direct more resources to districts with large shares of high-needs students (English-language learners, low-income students, and students in foster care) and cut down on state bureaucratic oversight.

January 7, 2014

Maine Gov. LePage Nominates Maine Interim K-12 Chief Rier to Top Spot:Maine Gov. Paul LePage has nominated Jim Rier to lead the Maine education department. Mr. Rier is currently the state’s acting commissioner of education, having taken over the job from Stephen Bowen, who left the Maine department last year for a job with the Council of Chief State School Officers. Mr. Rier joined the Maine department in 2003 as the director of finance and operations, and rose to the post of deputy commissioner in 2011.

January 7, 2014

Waiver States Struggle With Priority Schools, English-Learners, Ed. Dept. Finds: The U.S. Department of Education released reports for six states on January 6, showing varied degrees of success and problems as states adjust to new accountability systems.  The federal monitoring showed that the six states examined (Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, and New York) are struggling to intervene in schools with the biggest achievement gaps, to ensure that the worst schools implement the right improvement strategies, and to help English-learners adjust to new standards. The report showed that Mississippi and Idaho seemed to have the biggest problems.  The remaining states’ reports should be disseminated over the next four to six weeks. This is the second round of federal monitoring, called “Part B.”  It is supposed to look more intensively into how states are implementing their waiver plans and closely examine any issues.

January 6, 2014

Common-Core Testing Issues in N.C. Highlight Potential Trouble in States: One of the biggest potential issues for state legislators as their 2014 sessions get underway is what to do about assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. North Carolina is a good example of a state with complication viewpoints about common-core assessments. Though the state officially remains a member of the Smarter Balanced consortium, the state board cannot spend any money on those assessments unless the legislature passes a law specifically allowing that expense. In coming weeks, board members are supposed to gather information about at least one other common-core assessment, Aspire from ACT. Board members have indicated that they would like to make a decision about the best assessment by March. However, the legislature does not resume until May and, without explicit legal approval from state legislators, such a decision will not have the force of law. Currently, there is a joint legislative study committee tasked with studying the standards and testing options. The committee met for the first time on December 17, but most of the discussion focused on the common core itself, not its associated assessments.

January 3, 2014


Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002): A First Look at 2002 High School Sophomores 10 Years Later
This First Look presents findings from the third, and final, follow-up survey of the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). ELS:2002 provides a wealth of information from multiple sources (tested achievement, questionnaire, and administrative records) about the factors and circumstances related to the performance and social development of the American high school student over time. This report draws on ELS:2002 data collected in 2012 to describe the outcomes of the cohort at about age 26, approximately 10 years after they were high school sophomores. These outcomes reflect several key life course markers of the transition into early adulthood, including high school and postsecondary educational attainment, entering the labor market and starting a career, marriage and family formation, student debt and aid, and the perceived impact of the college experience. The First Look tables provide national estimates for these phenomena, explored in terms of differences by sophomores’ demographic, social, and academic characteristics.

January 9, 2014

CD-ROM: NAEP Vocabulary Results from the 2009 and 2011 Reading Assessments Restricted-Use Data Files
This CD-ROM contains data and documentation files for the NAEP vocabulary results from the 2009 and 2011 reading assessments for use in the analysis of NAEP data by secondary researchers. A Data Companion is provided in electronic portable document format (PDF). This document contains information on the contents and use of the data files as well as the assessment design and its implications for analysis. Your organization must apply for and be granted a restricted-use data license in order to obtain these data.

January 3, 2014

The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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