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Deborah Koolbeck

Director of Government Relations

New ESSA Resource Available, Negotiated Rule Making Announced

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released a new document of frequently asked questions (PDF) on the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) from the No Child Left Behind Act.

While this 17-page document does not answer every question, it provides key hyperlinks and covers a range of topics, from state flexibility to requirements under different sections of the law. The Department will continue to update the document in the coming months.

President Releases FY17 Budget Request

On February 9, President Obama released the final budget request of his presidency, a request for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17). Next, Congress will respond with its own budget followed by the appropriations process—when lawmakers can choose to implement the president’s request or parts of it, or move forward on their own priorities. With the Congress under control of the Republicans during this presidential election year, the president’s request is unlikely to receive much focus.

The budget request for the U.S. Department of Education is $69.4 billion for FY17, a 2% increase over the FY16 level. The administration again proposes to eliminate the Teacher Quality Partnerships—the only federal grant program focused on strengthening and improving teacher preparation programs—replacing it with the Teacher and Principal Pathways programs. The administration also proposes to eliminate the TEACH grants in 2021 and increase loan forgiveness for teachers in high-need schools.

Department Offers Guidance on Using NCLB Funds to Reduce Testing

On February 2, the U.S. Department of Education released guidance to chief state school officers on how No Child Left Behind (NCLB) funds in effect through the 2016-2017 school year may be used to “eliminate redundancy and ensure efficacy and quality of assessment.” You might recall that the Department released a Testing Action Plan in October 2015 to reduce the overtesting of our nation’s youth.

The guidance elaborates on what the Department views as principles for good assessments. The principles state that every assessment should be

  • Worth taking
  • High quality
  • Time limited
  • Fair, and supportive of fairness, in equity in educational opportunity
  • Fully transparent to students and parents
  • Just one of multiple measures
  • Tied to improved learning

Department Issues New Guidance on ESSA

On January 28, the U.S. Department of Education issued more guidance to states on transitioning from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law in December.

The new law requires the eight states without NCLB waivers to continue intervening in schools identified as being in need of improvement in 2015-16 through 2016-17. But they don’t have to set aside 20% of their Title I dollars to provide tutoring and school choice. Should these states forego the requirement, they will have to develop and implement a 1-year transition plan to ensure their local education agencies provide alternative supports for eligible students and schools with the highest need. Additional information will be sent to the nonwaiver states in the coming days or weeks. (The eight nonwaiver states are California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming.)

Opportunities Announced for Federal Grants, Peer Review Service

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) this week announced its 2016 grant competitions and timelines. Plan now for these upcoming opportunities (follow the hyperlinks for details):

The Office of Higher Education Programs facilitates grant programs that promote and expand access to postsecondary education, increase college completion rates for U.S. students, and strengthen the capacity of colleges and universities:

Acting Secretary King Announces January Meeting Tour

The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday that Acting Secretary John King will start an “Opportunity Across America Tour” January 14. The tour will focus on King’s stated priorities for 2016:

  • Promoting equity and excellence at every level of education to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed
  • Supporting and lifting up the teaching profession
  • Continuing the Department’s focus on returning America to the top of the rankings in college completion by ensuring more students earn an affordable degree with real value

In the coming week, King will be visiting Texas; Washington, DC; Delaware; and Pennsylvania. If any of the locations are in your community, you might want to attend to connect with King in person. The full announcement and schedule appear below.

Department of Education Webinar Slides Available on ESSA

On December 21 and 22, the U.S. Department of Education held webinars on the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the law that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Click here to access slides from the webinars, which included some timelines and initial information about the transition from the framework of the No Child Left Behind Act to the new framework of ESSA.

I recommend that you review the Department’s slides to support and enhance your program’s partnerships by giving you a sense of what your state education leaders and PK-12 partners will be experiencing over the coming months and year(s). In particular, consider the implications of ending the waivers (referred to in the webinar as ESEA flexibility or ESEA waivers) as of August 1 of this year.

U.S. Department of Education Starts Implementing ESSA

On December 18, the U.S. Department of Education published a notice in the Federal Register announcing its consideration of conducting negotiated rule making for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The secretary invites advice and recommendations on standards and assessments as well as on the requirement that Title I, Part A funds “supplement, not supplant” state and local funds. The Department seeks feedback from stakeholders on other areas of Title I that could benefit from either guidance or regulation as the nation moves from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to ESSA.

The Department also sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to states addressing pending transitions, including from current NCLB waivers to the new law. In the letter, the Department notes that it will not renew waivers or accept waiver applications from states that do not already have one.

Senators Reintroduce Educator Preparation Reform Act

On December 17, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) with original cosponsor Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) reintroduced the Educator Preparation Reform Act (EPRA). In addition, we expect that Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) will reintroduce EPRA in the U.S. House of Representatives early next year. We appreciate the continued support from both Senator Reed and Representative Honda on strengthening teacher preparation programs in the Higher Education Act (HEA), and we are pleased to see Senator Casey supporting EPRA on introduction as well this congress.

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