NEA and MSEA keep watchful eye on federal education issues affecting public schools
Here are some of MSEA's top federal issues affecting public schools:
Passed by Congress and signed into law in 2009 by President Barack Obama, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Act is credited with creating and saving more than 300,000 education jobs, including those of thousands of Maryland teachers, custodians, nurses, and bus drivers. But with record-setting declines in revenue and ARRA set to expire, Maryland and other states are struggling just to maintain education funding at last year’s levels.
That’s why NEA is pushing for immediate approval of U.S. Senate legislation that would save middle-class education jobs and help continue the nation’s economic recovery. “We are grateful to President Obama and Congress for passing legislation last year to jump start the nation’s economy,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “But the crisis is not over. Deep cuts to public services, including education, will mean a loss of jobs at the very time Congress is focusing on creating new jobs.”
“The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed jobs legislation that includes critical aid to states to avert layoffs of middle-class Americans who provide crucial public services like education. NEA is urging the Senate to take quick action on legislation that will maintain and create jobs that build America, help students achieve, keep school doors open and students fed.”
Learn more about NEA’s efforts to secure much-needed federal aid to save educator jobs and protect public schools.
Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the current incarnation of Lyndon Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), established goals that everyone supports: high standards and accountability for the learning of all children. But NCLB’s test-and-punish approach does not move us toward those goals.
NCLB is now up for reauthorization by Congress. NEA has developed guidelines for changing the law so it helps schools improve education and close achievement gaps. Unfortunately, the administration’s proposed blueprint for reauthorization continues to overemphasize standardized testing and underemphasize research-based proven methods for turning around failing schools.
Now NEA, MSEA, and other state affiliates are urging Congress to listen to educators' voices in developing the new law.
“The best laid plans for 21st century learning will not succeed without a true partnership of change between educators, school boards and school districts,” noted NEA President Dennis Van Roekel in his recent testimony before the U.S. Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “Simply put, reform in schools does not succeed without true collaboration among all those involved in creating, funding, and delivering quality education services to our students.”
Learn more about NEA’s positions on ESEA reauthorization and how you can make your voice heard.
Race to the Top
The U.S. Department of Education announced in March the names of the 16 states selected as finalists in its “Race to the Top” competition for $4.3 billion in federal grants. States competing for Race to the Top funds were asked to document past education reform successes, as well as outline plans to: extend reforms using college and career-ready standards and assessments; build a workforce of highly effective educators; create educational data systems to support student achievement; and turn around their lowest-performing schools. On March 29, Delaware and Tennessee were announced as the winners of the first round.
Maryland did not apply in the first round but plans to apply in the second round in June. In an effort to strengthen Maryland’s eligibility for up to $250 million in Race to the Top funds, the Governor signed the Education Reform Act into law in April 2010.
The Education Reform Act has the potential to enhance Maryland’s schools with a provision to provide early mentoring and professional development for teachers who may be at risk for failing to achieving tenure. MSEA has long advocated for quality training for educators to slow the revolving door of beginning teachers, 50 percent of whom leave the profession within the first five years. The new legislation increases tenure time from two to three years and includes student progress as a significant component of teacher evaluations.
“Governor O’Malley’s Education Reform Act of 2010 as initially proposed may well increase the chance that Maryland’s RTTT grant application will be successful,” noted MSEA Executive Director David Helfman. But, Helfman noted, MSEA will only support the legislation if it is amended in the General Assembly to address significant concerns the Association and its members have with some of these provisions, given the state’s #1 national ranking.
Common Core Standards
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) in March unveiled the draft K-12 grade level Common Core State Standards documents produced on behalf of 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is working to produce a set of grade-by-grade voluntary state standards for what students should know in English/language arts, math, and eventually science.
Two NEA members serve on project committees, and an advisory group of NEA teachers has provided input on several occasions, which has led to improvements from previous versions as the ideas of teachers provide real classroom grounding for the learning progressions and ideas in the standards.
“While there are still areas that can be improved, these standards are beginning to articulate education goals that encompass high level, complex knowledge and skills,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Broad goals such as these have the potential to promote flexible, rich instruction and sound assessments that support learning for all students.”
To view the latest draft and find out more about the Common Core State Standards Initiative, visit www.corestandards.org.