Bipartisan Spirit is Elementary … and Secondary

DC Shuttle …

Senate Passes ESEA Reauthorization. The Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), by a vote of 81 to 17, after debating the overhaul and amendments all week. The bill would grant more autonomy to state and local school districts over testing and accountability. It also gives states more flexibility using federal funds. The bill was sponsored by Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA). Both senators praised the bipartisan effort to craft a compromise bill, and the bill passed the chamber with broad bipartisan support. Under the bill, states would still be required to test students annually in math and reading from grades three through eight and once in high school. States also must report results by categories of race, income, ethnicity, disability and English-language learners. One of the changes under the bill would allow states to determine if a school is struggling or failing to educate any particular group of students, and states would decide what action to take, the Washington Post reports.

The House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) the previous week, on July 8. The two bills are very similar and will go to conference to be reconciled. Both bills would be an update to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which expired in 2013. Like the expired NCLB, the bills will reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which was first passed in 1965. Once reconciled in conference committee, the final language will be sent to the president for his signature.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) pushed for an amendment that would make a change to NCLB’s Title I funding formula. A scaled-back version of the amendment was adopted. The Senate voted down an amendment from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) aiming to curb bullying of LBGT youth. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the amendment which failed 52 to 45. Democrats also pushed an amendment that would specifically require states to pay attention to schools where specific student subgroups, such as English-language learners and minority students, are not meeting achievement goals. While the amendment failed, the party wanted to add more accountability to the bill and hoped that a strong vote from Democrats would send a message. The chamber also rejected an amendment by Tim Scott (R-SC) that would allow states to distribute Title I funds in a way that would follow low-income students to the schools they attend. The Senate approved an amendment from Sen.Angus King (I-ME) which would ensure that digital services or devices that help students access the Internet outside of the school day, like mobile hotspots, are eligible for technology funding under the bill’s I-TECH program. Read a summary of the bill.

Land-Grant University Hearing. The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing titled “125th Anniversary of the 1890s Land-Grant Universities,” of which, there are 19 in the U.S. The Second Morrill Act, which was passed 125 years ago by Congress on Aug. 30, 1890, created a network of historically black colleges and universities dedicated to providing educational opportunities for all, through innovative scientific research and community-minded extension programs. Rep. David Scott (D-GA) proposed that land-grant funding also be designated to support scholarships and debt forgiveness programs at the 1890s institutions to ensure that African Americans and young Americans have an opportunity to pursue careers in agriculture-related and farming industries.

Student Data Privacy Bill Introduced. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a student data privacy bill. The Safeguarding American Families from Exposure by Keeping Information and Data Secure Act, or SAFE KIDS Act ,would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to oversee and enforce the collection, storage and use of students’ personally identifiable information. It would ban third-party vendors from using student data to target advertising to students or selling student data. It would also allow parents to access and correct their children’s information. The measure would also require private companies to meet certain data security standards when handling student information. The Hill reports that the Senate now has competing bills aimed at restricting education companies from selling or using student data for targeted ads. The bill is nearly identical to a measure, the Protecting Student Privacy Act (S.1322) that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced in May. Lawmakers have said they hope to combine the two.

Survey of State Aid. The Education Commission of the States launched a comprehensive database of 100 of the largest state financial aid programs across the country. The project is part of the commission’s two-year initiative to help states improve college affordability and catalyze completion. The database is intended to reveal opportunities for states to rethink aid programs in light of contemporary students. The database shows that 29 programs fund only full-time students, 43 states base award length on a set number of terms or years, regardless of how long it takes to complete an academic program, and 33 link aid eligibility to college entrance exams or grade point averages.

Opposition Mounting to PARCC in Massachusetts. Opposition to PARCC and the Common Core in Massachusetts is growing, as the state decides whether to adopt the tests, the Lowell Sun reports. The state is conducting a two-year test of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) exam and the state board of education will decide this fall whether to adopt it. Ohio lawmakers decided to abandon the test last month, which has caused increased discussion around adoption. This month, a group called “End Common Core” announced a ballot initiative to stop the standards in the state.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of July 20, 2015. Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit:




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