Notes from Capitol Hill
News from Capitol Hill. . .
March 14, 2014
Urge Congress to support more time for student learning by reducing the federal role in testing
The NEA-supported bipartisan Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 4172) by Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would reduce the federal role in testing to the pre-No Child Left Behind (NCLB) status known as grade-span testing, giving educators more time to teach and students more time to learn. With grade-span testing – meaning once in elementary, once in middle, and once in high school – the number of federally-mandated standardized tests students take during their K-12 years would drop from 14 to 6. States or school districts could choose to administer their own assessments more frequently, particularly to help improve instruction in a timely manner.
“The federal testing mandates, when combined with the amount of state and district level assessments, has snowballed to create the feeling that our schools are not centers of learning, but rather are test-prep factories,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, and driving teachers out of the profession.”
Tell Congress students deserve full funding for IDEA
The NEA-supported bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Act (H.R. 4136) would require regular increases in IDEA spending to fulfill the federal government’s promise to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. In the 39 years since IDEA became law, the funding pledge has never been met. Thanks to years of federal education spending cuts, current funding sits at just 15 percent. Fully funding IDEA would help take pressure off state and local budgets that are already stretched thin, freeing up funds for other priorities. Schools and the students they serve cannot afford to wait any longer for the relief they so desperately need.
Show how raising the minimum wage helps students and families
The Senate is expected to vote on raising the federal minimum wage in the next few weeks, after returning from a week-long recess. The NEA-supported Minimum Wage Fairness Act of 2013 (S. 1737/H.R. 1010) would raise the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – the equivalent of an annual salary of $15,080 for a full-time worker – to $10.10 an hour in three steps.
More than 16 million children under age 18 – nearly 22 percent of all children – live below the official poverty threshold. An increase in the minimum wage would help students and many education support professionals nationwide. Share your story: What would an increase in the minimum wage mean for the families of your students and in your community?
Senate votes to reauthorize program for low-income kids and families
On Thursday, the Senate voted 97 to 1 to reauthorize the NEA-supported Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, which helps make child care affordable for low-income families. The Senate version of reauthorization (S. 1086) would improve the quality of child care services, health and safety provisions, and aligns better with early education programs – a good step toward a more comprehensive early childhood education system. The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold an informational hearing on CCDBG on March 25.