Last week, the U.S. Senate began floor debate on the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177)—a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-No Child Left Behind (ESEA-NCLB). The primary law governing K-12 education at the federal level, ESEA-NCLB is eight years overdue for reauthorization. National PTA has consistently advocated for a bipartisan and comprehensive reauthorization of ESEA-NCLB, and it is a key public policy priority for our association. However, the bipartisan bill is far from perfect and National PTA has been working with U.S. Senate offices for several months to improve the bill for children and their families.
Most notably, National PTA has been working on two amendments that would improve family engagement programs and resources in states and school districts. Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced an amendment on July 8 that would authorize Statewide Family Engagement Centers. These centers would give states and school districts the capacity to support effective implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement. Additionally, an amendment offered by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) would allow local education agencies to use more than 1 percent of their district-level Title I funding for family engagement programs. Debate has yet to occur on either of these amendments, but National PTA is following the floor action closely.
Earlier in the week, we were pleased to see an amendment by Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) which National PTA advocated for, was included in the bill to ensure family engagement strategies are allowable activities in the Early Learning Alignments and Improvement grant program. By weeks end, there were more than 130 amendments filed with 19 passed, three rejected and a few amendments tabled for further negotiations. Similar to the House, there were a few proposals introduced that could allow for the portability of Title I funds to public and private schools, which were amongst the amendments that were rejected. National PTA was pleased to see that school voucher programs and Title I portability were not accepted, so far, in the Every Child Achieves Act. We will continue to advocate against methods that take federal funding away from the students that need it the most.
National PTA sent a letter to the Senate outlining our priorities for reauthorizing ESEA-NCLB before the floor debate began and will continue to communicate National PTA priorities to all Senators as debate continues.
There were a number of agreed upon amendments, ranging from ensuring access to STEM subjects for underrepresented students to a crackdown on sexual assaults in schools to authorized studies on tribal schools and student services, amongst others. National PTA was pleased to see the adoption of an amendment that would allow school staff additional means to “certify” that students are homeless and an amendment that encourages states and school districts to integrate school library programs into their plans for improving student academic achievement.
The Every Child Achieves Act will resume consideration on the U.S. Senate floor at 5:30 p.m. EDT today and could be voted on for final passage as early as Thursday, July 16. National PTA continues to work with members of the Senate to provide families the necessary resources to effectively be involved in their children’s education.
Make sure to stay connected with our legislative actions by checking our PTA Takes Action webpage to send letters to your elected officials in support of our federal legislative priorities as well as reading the One Voice blog and following National PTA on social media platforms.
Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.