Monday, February 12, 2007

FW: Legislative Update from ASCA

Legislative Update )
In this issue
  • Budget and Appropriations
  • President Releases FY 2008 Budget Request
  • HELP Committee Holds NCLB Roundtable Discussion
  • College Board Releases Advanced Placement Report
  • In Brief

  • Greetings!

    Legislative Update, a weekly publication of ASCA, provides an executive summary of public policy issues affecting American education. This publication contains links to Internet sites for the convenience of World Wide Web users. ASCA is not responsible for the availability or content of these external sites, nor does ASCA endorse, warrant or guarantee the information, services, or products described or offered at these other Internet sites.

    Budget and Appropriations

    The floor schedule in both Houses of the Congress was deceptively slow this week. The action was taking place behind the scenes. In the Senate, the plan had been a debate on Iraq. The form was to be a resolution indicating support for the troops, but also skepticism about the troop surge to a call for immediate withdrawal. No middle ground could be found so the debate limped on. It did provide, however, an example of how hard it is for the Democrats and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to move legislation or take any other action without the cooperation of their Republican colleagues. Their majority is slim, and the absence of Senator Tim Johnson (D-ND) reduces it even further. Turning to the Committee rooms, it was hard to find a hearing that did not focus on oversight of the war, and those were acrimonious as well. The major story coming out of the House was a fight about the size of the military airplane that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will have access to for transport to and from California.

    Also, a background debate that burst to the forefront on Thursday afternoon in the Senate was H.J. Res. 20, the yearlong stopgap spending bill. The measure provides $463 billion to fund most government agencies through the remaining months of the fiscal year. It passed in the House and must be acted on in the Senate before the current continuing resolution expires on February 15th or a government shutdown is possible. The bill is a compromise measure that it is safe to say satisfies no one but is “the best that could be accomplished under the circumstances,” according to appropriations staffers who have worked on the measure for months. Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has already filed cloture to limit debate on the bill—that vote will occur on February 13th.

    Though anything but a final conference report is subject to amendment in the Senate, Reid used a parliamentary procedure called “filling the tree” on H. J. Res. 20, effectively making it impossible for anyone—Republican or Democrat—to amend the bill. Again, no sides are satisfied with this strategy but the urgency of providing a budget for the government and moving a controversial bill in such a highly charged atmosphere convinced the leadership that this was the best strategy. The first Senator to make it clear they want to amend the bill was Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). She wants to see an across the board cut applied to the bill to increase spending on military base closures. Opponents to her amendment want to see the base closure cost issue addressed when the Congress takes up the $100 billion emergency supplemental bill to pay for the cost of the Iraq war. That debate will occur in March.

    President Releases FY 2008 Budget Request

    On February 5th, the Administration released its $3 trillion FY 2008 proposed budget. According to the White House, the proposal “reduces the deficit each year and reaches a balanced budget within five years.” The broad budget discusses keeping the economy strong, spending taxpayer dollars wisely, and combating terrorism and protecting the homeland. The budget elicited a strongly critical reaction on Capitol Hill from Democrats.

    Relative to the plan’s outline for programs at the Department of Education, Secretary Spellings said in a related press release, "President Bush believes that every student can learn and today he is reaffirming his commitment to a good education for every child, regardless of race, income or zip code. This budget builds on the great progress our children have made under No Child Left Behind while at the same time targeting dollars more strategically to meet our students' most pressing needs and priorities." The release also groups details of the proposal for the Department of Education into four areas: building on the results of No Child Left Behind; preparing students for global competitiveness; helping students afford higher education; and, spending taxpayer dollars wisely.

    For FY 2008, the President is requesting $56.0 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Education, matching the FY 2006 level but $1.5 billion below the funding in the long term continuing resolution that has passed in the House and is pending in the Senate. As part of the budget release, the Department of Education notes that discretionary appropriations for the Department have grown by $13.8 billion, or 33 percent, since fiscal year 2001. In recent years the Administration has recommended cuts in funding for ED and future projections maintain that downward slope.

    The Administration highlights increases in Title I funding, investment in Title I School Improvement Grants, $365 million in new funding “to improve math and science instruction in K-12 schools,” increased funding to support choice and supplemental education services options, a $550 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award to $4,600, a 50 percent increase in Academic Competitiveness Grants awarded to Pell Grant recipients in the first 2 years of college who completed a rigorous high school curriculum, from $750 to $1,125 for first-year students and from $1,300 to $1,950 for second-year students, and $35 million for the Department's portion of the President's multi-agency National Security Language Initiative, which in addition to contributing to national security would help US citizens compete in the global marketplace.

    Throughout the budget the Administration requests the elimination of almost 150 programs, including the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program. For the Department of Education, the list is 44 programs for a total savings of approximately $2.2 billion. On the mandatory side, the request would save $19 billion over 5 years by reducing what the Administration calls “excessive subsidies” in the student loan programs. It is this $19 billion from the mandatory side of the budget that the Administration would then transfer to discretionary accounts within the Department of Education to increase funding for Pell Grants and ACG Grants.

    A bright note for elementary and secondary education support within the National Science Foundation is a recommendation that the Foundation’s Math and Science Partnership initiative would be funded at $46 million, with $29 million available for new awards. Unfortunately, overall funding for the Education and Human Resources Directorate would decrease by $50 million if agreed to by the Congress.

    HELP Committee Holds NCLB Roundtable Discussion

    While the House of Representatives held numerous hearings on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) during the 109th Congress, Thursday’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee roundtable discussion titled “NCLB Reauthorization: Strategies that Promote School Improvement” marked the first official Senate action. “Roundtable discussions” are intended to be more informal than a hearing, with panelists and Senators sitting around a large square table together and engaging in more of a dialogue than strictly timed questions and responses.

    Opening the discussion, Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA) spoke of NCLB’s indisputable impact and said that hearings and roundtables will be utilized in order to gather information on how best to allocate federal resources and improve existing law to turn around struggling schools. “Obviously we must do better, fortunately we know we can,” stated Kennedy. Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY) concurred with Kennedy’s thoughts and added that NCLB “has provided a strong framework” and: 1) there is a need to learn more about what’s working to turn around schools and disseminate the information; 2) Congress should support school improvement activities that are authorized in NCLB; and 3) improvements can be made within the current NCLB structure to improve teacher training and professional development.

    In addition to Kennedy and Enzi, participating in the roundtable were Senators: Jack Reed (D-RI); Barack Obama (D-IL); Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); Pat Roberts (R-KS); and Wayne Allard (R-CO).

    Representing educators from the school, district and state levels, the eight panelists included: Dr. Martha Barber, Alabama Reading Initiative Regional Principal Coach, Birmingham, AL; Dr. Yvonne Brandon, Associate Superintendent for Instruction & Accountability, Richmond Public Schools; Richard Coleman, Sr., Director, An Achievable Dream Academy, Newport News, VA; Michael P. Flanagan, State Superintendent of Instruction, State of Michigan; Hosanna Mahaley Johnson, Executive Officer, Office of New Schools, Chicago Public Schools; Kimberly Johnson, Principal, Briggs Chaney Middle School, Silver Spring, MD; Alana Dale-Turner, Teacher, Easton High School, Easton, MD; and Paul Reville, President, Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

    While news headlines across the country still ring of negative impressions and implications of NCLB, each panelist discussed the law and its impact in positive terms. Comments were couched to reflect how NCLB has changed the culture of expectations in schools across the country. Each panelist brought a unique perspective and various strategies were discussed, such as extending the school day and pairing low performing schools with high performing schools in order to learn best practices, as well as the need to increase state capacity. Among the panelists, common strategies to turn around struggling schools included: utilizing data to drive decision making; needing adequate resources; and constant support and professional development for teachers and school principals.

    College Board Releases Advanced Placement Report

    Garnering national attention this week, the College Board released the third annual “Advanced Placement Report to the Nation” at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. The significant press coverage generated by the release of the report signals just how much support and acceptance Advanced Placement (AP) courses enjoy across the country. The Administration’s support is also evident in its budget request, which includes a $90 million increase for AP in FY 2008.

    The report indicates great improvement since 2000, with 50% more public school graduates now achieving an AP Exam grade of “3” or better, and an increase across all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of high school graduates earning a grade of “3” or better. More than 1/5th of the students in New York, Maryland, Utah, Virginia, and California graduated with an Exam grade of “3” or better on at least one AP Exam.

    Despite these great gains, equity across racial lines is still suffering. The report shows African American and American Indian/Alaska Native students are significantly underrepresented in AP course participatory rates. African Americans make up nearly 14% of the nation’s public school student population, but represent only 7% of the public school population that takes AP courses. However, Latino students who represent about 14% of the public school population also represent about 14% of the AP population.

    In an attempt to help improve racial inequities and minority scores, this year also saw the beginning of the AP Course Audit. Designed to provide clear guidelines on curricular and resource requirements, the audit will help to ensure access to quality AP courses for students in underfunded schools.

    Additionally, the report details studies that support the trend of success transferring from AP Exams to college. Part of the report is based on a study from the University of Texas by Leslie Keng and Barbara Dodd that followed four groups of college freshman from 1998-2001. It found that those students who had placed out of introductory college courses due to passing AP Exam grades had higher college GPAs and took more credit hours than did non-AP students. A second study by Linda Hargrove, Donn Godin, and Barbara Dodd supported this conclusion. These studies concluded that students who succeed on AP Exams are better equipped for college and more likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree than other students.

    College Board President Gaston Caperton highlighted the importance of ensuring that all students are prepared for AP courses as well as the courses they will take in college, and that this preparation must start at the middle school level. One such district following this practice is the Houston Independent School District, which requires 6th and 7th graders to take an AP preparatory course. Caperton implied that this would help reduce the current gap between graduation standards and college course requirements. Currently, 75% of high school graduates begin college, but actual degree attainment rate is significantly less.

    In Brief

    EDUCATION SECTOR RELEASES REPORT ON USE OF SCHOOL TIME: On Wednesday, Education Sector held a forum entitled “Rethinking the Way Schools Use Time.” The forum included Andrew Rotherham, Co-director, Education Sector; Dan Katzir, Managing Director, The Broad Foundation; Kevin Carey, Research and Policy Manager, Education Sector; Elena Silva, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Sector; An-Me Chung, Program Officer, C.S. Mott Foundation; Toks Fashola, Adjunct Research Scientist, Johns Hopkins University; Chris Gabrieli, Co-chair, Massachusetts 2020; and Rick Larios, Senior Vice President, Edison Schools. Many schools and educators are turning their attention to the amount of time students spend in school as a way to raise student achievement and to meet the demands of No Child Left Behind. States and school districts around the country are considering various proposals for extending the school day and year, ranging from lengthening the school day by several hours to extending the school year by days, weeks or months. The idea and cost of extending school time make this type of reform a tough sell. Additional days and hours are expensive, and changing the school schedule affects not only students and teachers, but parents, employers and a wide range of industries that are dependent on the traditional school day and year. Education Sector released a report that examines both the educational and political scope of school time reform. It discusses the impact of various time reforms on the life of schools, and makes recommendations for policymakers about how to best leverage time in and out of school to improve student achievement. View the report.

    CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS RELEASES TEACHER COMPENSATION REPORT: On Tuesday, the Center for American Progress held a briefing to discuss the release of their report entitled “Teacher Compensation in Charter and Private Schools.” Featured participants included: Bryan C. Hassel, Co-Director of Public Impact; Julie Kowal, Consultant Public Impact; Emily Lawson, Founder and Executive Director of D.C. Preparatory Academy ; Nancy Van Meter, Deputy Director, American Federation of Teachers; and Cynthia G. Brown, Director of Education Policy, Center for American Progress. Research suggests that teacher quality accounts for variation in student performance. Yet across the country, states and districts are struggling to attract, support, and retain high-quality teachers. The limitations of the traditional salary in attracting and keeping good teachers have prompted policymakers to search for alternative ways of compensating teachers. Charter and private schools have greater latitude in their compensation practices. Pay policies in these schools may provide some useful lessons to inform future efforts in public schools to reform the way teachers are paid. This report provides a snapshot of compensation practices in several charter and private schools and an analysis of potential lessons for public schools. View the report.

    DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION RELEASES DRAFT STRATEGIC PLAN: The Department of Education has released a draft strategic plan; “Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2007–12” sets three priorities for America’s schools and students. The three priorities outlined include (1) increase student achievement, reward qualified teachers, and review troubled schools so that every student can read and do math at grade level by 2014, as called for by the No Child Left Behind Act, (2) encourage more rigorous and advanced coursework to improve the academic performance of our middle and high school students, and (3) work with colleges and universities to improve access, affordability, and accountability, so that our higher education system remains the world’s finest. The Department is accepting public comment on these priorities and the draft plan through February 23rd. Public comment may be emailed to View the draft strategic plan.

    New Publications & In The News
  • "Advanced Placement Report to the Nation” College Board (2007).
  • "On the Clock: Rethinking the Way Schools Use Time” Education Sector (January 2007).
  • "Teacher Compensation in Charter and Private Schools” Center for American Progress (February 2007).
  • "Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2007–12” U.S. Department of Education (February 2007).
  • "Looking for Leadership: Assessing the Case for Mayoral Control of Urban School Systems” Show Me Institute (February 2007)
  • “America’s Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nations Future” Education Testing Service (February 2007).
  • “States Hopeful That Mentoring Will Retain New Teachers” CNN Online (2/7/07).
  • “Rural Colleges Seek New Edge and Urbanize” New York Times (2/7/07).
  • “Advanced Placement Tests are Leaving Some Behind” New York Times (2/7/07).
  • “A Second Look: Student Lenders” Boston Globe (2/6/07).
  • “New Spending for No Child Left Behind” Washington Post (2/6/07).
  • “Supervisors Step Up In ‘No Child’ Fight” Washington Post (2/6/07)
  • Report: More Students Passed an AP Exam in 2006” USA Today (2/6/07)

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