Tag Archives: Title I

No fooling, it’s Census Day!

We all know that April 1 is April Fool’s Day, but did you know that every 10 years it is also Census Day? Today we celebrate the counting of all people living in the United States in order to fulfill a requirement of the U.S. Constitution. Without a proper counting, it would be impossible to uphold the ideals of our representative democracy and all of the benefits, especially to public education, that come with it.

The 2020 Census faces a hurdle this year as the nation progressively shuts down due to the novel coronavirus. The U.S. Census Bureau has delayed the timeline and rollout of communications to individuals in order to keep human-to-human contact to a minimum. Fortunately, for the first time ever, the census questionnaire can be completed online. As of yesterday, the U.S. census response rate is 36.2% and the Texas response rate is 31.3%, with the majority of responses completed online. While Texas ranks quite low across the nation in response rate, we also have vast expanses of land and many households and individuals with limited internet access. Check out the map below to explore current census response rates in Texas and the nation.

See the full map at www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us

Though the timeline has been adjusted due to the pandemic, every household should receive an invitation by today. Likewise, the Census Bureau expects to get population counts to the president and to states on schedule, which are important for U.S. House seats and redistricting purposes. Unfortunately, those living in group quarters (college students, nursing homes, etc.), experiencing homelessness, or living in remote areas or areas without an address will be contacted or counted in person later in the year. This delay in timing to hand-delivery of packets and in-person counts could deal a hard hit to Texas, as a large portion of the state relies on this method of contact to be counted.

Initial contact modes for 2020 Census in Texas. (source)

The census is no joke! As explained in this earlier post on Teach the Vote, the 2020 Census is crucial to public education funding for low-income students and students with special needs, as well as many other federally-funded programs that help to support families and children. Census-statistic derived funding also helps to support entire communities as it drives dollars to public necessities such as roads and emergency services. While participating in online meetings and classes, virtual happy hours, and digital chats with friends and family, make sure to mention the census. By pushing online and completion by phone options, we can stay on track to get an accurate count.

Looking for more resources to use with your colleagues, friends, family, and students? The U.S. Census Bureau website is a great resource for learning about how to respond to the census. Additionally, the website has been updated to address new concerns such as college students who are now home due to school closures (they should be counted as if they were still at their college, FYI). For lesson content, educators can download free lesson materials and activities, created by teachers for teachers, on this site. Find more information and FAQs on responding to the census, check out this post previously featured on Teach the Vote.

Before we go and prank the dog (since there is nobody else around), please be aware of these reminders:

  • You don’t have to receive an invitation to go ahead and complete your census questionnaire online or by phone.
  • There is NO citizenship question.
  • Your response to the census, by law, cannot be shared with law enforcement and is only used for statistical purposes.

Happy Census-ing!

Texas public schools are counting on the 2020 Census

Check your mailbox today. Did you get a 2020 Census invitation?

By April 1, 2020, all households will receive an invitation to complete the 2020 U.S. Census, which determines many important factors of daily life, including funding for children, representation in Congress, and federal assistance for public necessities such as roads and emergency services. Invitations are being delivered between March 12-20. From March 30-April 1, the Census Bureau will count individuals experiencing homelessness, and in April, census workers will visit universities, nursing homes, and others who live in large groups. See a full timeline here.

The census is foundational to our democratic way of life in the United States. In fact, a decennial (every ten years) population count is required by the U.S. Constitution to ensure fair representation of everyone living in the United States. The number of representatives assigned to each state in the U.S. House of Representatives is based off census counts. Big and rapidly growing states like Texas rely on the census to make sure our voices are heard (proudly and loudly) in Washington, D.C. – we are projected to add two or three U.S. representatives to the Texas delegation after this census because of population growth. State and local officials also use the census results, which break down population by tracts of land, to draw boundaries for congressional districts, state legislative districts, State Board of Education districts, and school districts.

Example of 2020 Census questions. Source: 2020census.gov

The census counts every person living in the U.S. once, and your response to the questionnaire is required by law. The 2020 census includes 12 questions that will collect very basic data about households as of April 1, 2020, including size and type of household (house, apartment, mobile home), telephone number, and the race, ethnicity, age, and sex of each person living in the household. Find a sample of the 2020 census here. There is NO citizenship question. By law, the U.S. Census Bureau is not allowed to release personal information, even to law enforcement.

In 2018, Texas received over $1.3 billion dollars in Title I funding, which is based on census counts. Out of the $43 billion in total census-derived funding Texas received in 2018, our students also benefited from $1.4 billion in National School Lunch Program funds and billions more for health insurance, special education, foster care, early childhood education, child care, and other nutritional programs. All of these essential programs are at stake – even just a 1% undercount could cost the state $300 million.

Census-statistic derived federal aid to Texas, 2018. Source: CPPP

For the first time ever, the census can be completed online. Alternative methods such as by phone and mail are also still available. The census website features easy-to-understand resources about completing the census, including considerations for special circumstances facing families today, such as homelessness.

Hard-to-count areas represented with darker colors. Source: City University of New York

It is important to get an accurate count because public schools are legally required to educate ALL students and rely on federal funding tied to population numbers. The census counts everyone living in the U.S., including citizens, non-citizen legal residents and long-term visitors, and undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, an estimated 25% of Texans and 30% of Texas children live in areas that are considered hard-to-count. These individuals are often hard to contact, locate, survey, and/or engage because of a variety of factors such as language barriers, lack of stable housing, or distrust of the government.

Texas Counts is a community hub that provides several resources for educators, schools, and districts related to get-out-the-count efforts. Since public schools educate all children, they are poised to reach families in unique ways to help promote completion of the census, dispel myths, and ease minds. Educators can also check out the resources on the U.S. Census website, which include lessons and other ways to make the census relevant to students at this crucial time.

 

Congressional leaders reach deal on spending that includes boost to education dollars

Budget negotiators in Congress have reached an agreement on a deal to keep the lights on in Washington. The deal represents $1.3 trillion in total spending and a boost of $3.9 billion to spending on education. Congress now has until the end of Friday to pass the bill, preventing another government shutdown.

If Congress is able to pass the legislation in its current form (Republican and Democratic leaders are backing the final negotiation) and President Trump signs the legislation (he seemed to support the legislation Wednesday night after waffling throughout the day), many programs at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will see boosts to funding.

Boosts include funding for Title I and special education (IDEA), the two largest sources of funding at ED, as well as a program aimed at recruiting, supporting, and training educators. Other boosts to funding include programs pertaining to STEM education, technology enhancements, counseling and mental health, social and emotional learning, after school curricula, and rural schools. There is also new funding for school safety in the form of training and safety technologies like metal detectors.

Many of the funded programs are ones President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos cut under their budget request. For example, the president’s budget proposal suggested defunding the $2 billion program aimed at recruiting, supporting, and training educators primarily in high-needs schools. Aside from an increase to charter school funding, Congress also ignored the administration’s requests regarding public and private school choice. There is no funding for a $500 million investment in expanding existing state voucher programs or establishing new voucher programs, and the $1 billion in Title I funding Trump wanted to see invested in a system termed Title I portability (a refresher on that can be found here) is not included. Secretary DeVos faced a congressional committee just this week in an effort to advocate for a number of major reforms at ED, but those were largely overlooked by congressional leaders under the spending plan.

While the deal looks poised for passage, there are still several procedural measures that could prevent its passage ahead of the Friday midnight deadline. Check back for more on how the latest deal on federal funding plays out.

U.S. Senate education leaders release bipartisan bill to rewrite ESEA

This week the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released their highly anticipated bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), or No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The two authors negotiated the details of the bill, The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, over the past two months and settled on a compromise that would significantly reduce the federal government’s role in education but maintain the annual testing schedule developed under NCLB and exclude a Title I funding portability provision.

To begin, a quick refresher is in order. Chairman Alexander released a draft version of a rewrite of the nation’s primary education law in January and a series of hearings in the HELP committee immediately followed. ATPE submitted testimony in conjunction with those hearings that dealt with testing and accountability and supporting teachers and school leaders. We also weighed in on the discussion draft proposed by Alexander. Meanwhile, on the other side of the U.S. Capitol, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) released his own version of an ESEA reauthorization bill entitled H.R. 5 – The Student Success Act. H.R. 5 quickly moved through committee in early February and was debated on the floor of the full House in late February. However, in the final hours of debate and with the threat of veto issued from the White House, House leadership delayed the vote. Leaders said that move was made in order to debate a funding bill that faced a midnight deadline, but it is widely understood that the House didn’t have the votes to pass the bill and leaders wanted to avoid an embarrassing defeat.

The Senate HELP Committee will mark up the new Alexander/Murray compromise bill next week on Tuesday, April 14, at 9 a.m. (Central Time). Visit the committee’s website to watch the mark up live or access committee documents on the bill. Some major provisions of the bill are as follows:

Accountability

The Every Child Achieves Act would allow states to develop their own accountability systems, which is a departure from current law. State accountability systems would need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education (peer review teams would be established to assist the secretary of education in the review of state plans) based on parameters outlined in the bill, such as the inclusion of graduation rates, a measure of post-secondary education or workforce readiness, proficiency rates for English language learners, and standardized test results. However, states would be able to include any additional measures of performance and would have the authority to weight all measures as they see fit. That flexibility would include how much weight is placed on student performance on standardized tests.

States would still be required to report disaggregated data on student subgroups. They would also still be required to identify low-performing schools through accountability system results, but would only monitor school districts as they implement their own methods of evidence-based intervention.

Testing

The most discussed piece of Chairman Alexander’s original draft bill was the portion on testing, which offered two options intended to spur discussion among committee members. The options were to keep the current testing schedule or scrap annual testing and give states a significant amount of leeway in developing their own testing systems. The Every Child Achieves Act maintains the annual testing schedule, but does give states the option to conduct one annual test or a series of smaller tests that combine to a summative score. Additionally, in what is likely an attempt to appease supporters of state-developed systems, the bill creates a pilot program that would initially allow the secretary of education to permit five states to develop innovative testing systems. If successful, the program could be expanded.

Curriculum Standards

States would be required to adopt “challenging state academic standards.” Those standards would not have to be approved by the Department of Education, and the bill specifically states the secretary of education would not have the authority to “mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervision” with regard to the adoption of state standards.

School Choice and Privatization

The primary provision in Alexander’s earlier draft bill aimed at school choice involved the portability of Title I funding for low-income students. That language is not included in The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. Title I portability language has received strong backing from Republicans and would allow Title I funding to follow students from school to school. Democrats and President Obama have opposed the inclusion of such language and the White House based its threat of veto on H.R. 5, in part, on portability language included in the bill.

The new bill consolidates two federal charter school programs into a program that includes three grant programs: High-Quality Charter Schools, Facilities Financing Assistance, and Replication and Expansion. Additional language aims to incentivize better transparency and quality among state charter schools.

Educator Evaluations

States would have a lot of discretion on how to spend money related to teacher quality under Title II. That could include the development of an educator evaluation system, but no state would be required to develop a system, which is departure from current law. Thus, there is no language requiring the inclusion of student outcomes in an educator’s evaluation.

The new bill removes the statutory definition of “highly qualified” as well as some of the requirements surrounding the term and allows states to develop their own definition.

U.S. House to debate ESEA reauthorization starting today, White House threatens veto

The US House of Representatives is scheduled to begin debate of H.R. 5, The Student Success Act, this afternoon. The Student Success Act, a Republican-backed bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), or No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), has moved quickly through the House process; the bill was introduced the first week in February and marked up in committee shortly thereafter. H.R. 5 is scheduled for debate today, tomorrow, and Friday by the full House of Representatives, with a final vote on the bill expected Friday.

House Democrats have expressed opposition to H.R. 5 and the expedited, partisan process through which they feel the bill has been ushered. Today, the White House threatened to veto the bill in its current form, calling the bill “a significant step backwards.”

More than 125 amendments were filed ahead of the three-day floor debate (although the House will likely debate far fewer amendments than were filed). Most of the amendments were filed by Democrats who were unable to get any amendments passed during the committee mark up, but several Republican and bipartisan amendments were filed as well. The filed amendments cover a variety of topics, including altering the current testing schedule, further expanding Title I portability, and defining requirements for state accountability plans.

The House is scheduled to begin debate this afternoon at 2 pm CST. Visit the House website to watch the debate live or view an archived video of the debate. 

U.S. House education committee passes ESEA reauthorization bill

As we reported last week, Congressman John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, filed his version of legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly referred to as no Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill, H.R. 5–The Student Success Act, is similar to a bill he filed last Congress, which passed the House education committee and House floor but stalled in the Senate.

Chairman Kline’s education committee met to mark up his recently filed piece of legislation on Wednesday. The bill passed the committee on a partisan vote, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposing the measure. Several amendments were adopted during the markup and many more were defeated. One failed amendment came from Democrats who offered their own version of a reauthorization bill; the amendment was voted down on another party-line vote, this time with all Republicans opposing. Below is a look at The Student Success Act by issue following revisions made during this week’s committee markup.

Accountability

Similar to Senator Alexander’s draft legislation, Kline’s bill would scrap adequate yearly progress (AYP) and allow states to develop their own systems of accountability based on parameters outlined in the bill. Approval of states’ plans would be subject to those parameters as well as to a peer review process developed by the secretary of education. Under Kline’s bill, the peer review teams would be appointed by the secretary and would be made up of at least 65 percent practitioners and 10 percent representatives of private sector employers. In addition, states’ plans would have to support effective parental involvement practices at the local level.

Kline’s legislation also requires that states and school districts continue to prepare and disseminate annual report cards. The report cards would be required to include certain information, like graduation rates and disaggregated data of student performance on state assessments. An amendment adopted during the committee markup added data on military dependent students to the list of disaggregated data that states and districts are required to collect.

Another accountability system amendment passed during the markup allows states to delay the inclusion of English language learners’ assessment scores during students’ first few years in US schools.

Testing

Kline’s bill would keep the current NCLB-designed testing schedule, which requires that students be tested in reading and math every year in grades 3-8 and once in high school and that they be tested in science once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. States would still be required to disaggregate data based on certain student populations.

One amendment offered during the committee markup would have supported the study of states’ assessments through a grant program aimed at eliminating redundant or unnecessary tests. The amendment was ultimately withdrawn. Republicans expressed opposition throughout the hearing to measures that would grow government or cost money. This also meant the defeat of amendments dealing with early childhood education, dropout prevention, STEM programs, and technology, among other issues.

Curriculum Standards

Under the House committee’s proposal, states would be required to adopt their own curriculum standards in math, reading/language arts, and science, as well as any additional subjects a state may choose. Each state would also be required to adopt English language proficiency standards and have the option to develop alternate academic achievement standards for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

As we predicted in a previous Teach the Vote blog post, Common Core is specifically addressed in Kline’s legislation; the bill would prohibit the secretary of education from requiring that states adopt any particular set of standards, including Common Core.

School Choice and Privatization

As is also the case in Senator Alexander’s draft bill, the primary provision in Kline’s bill aimed at school choice is the portability of Title I funding for low-income students. The bill would allow Title I funding to follow eligible students from one public school to another public school. Kline’s bill does not include provisions related to voucher programs, but an amendment was offered during markup that would have expanded the Title I portability provision to include students attending private schools. The amendment was ultimately withdrawn during committee due to lack of support, but we can expect to see similar amendments offered when the bill is debated by the full House.

One additional amendment offered during the committee markup would have increased accountability and transparency for charter schools, but the amendment was defeated.

Educator Evaluations

The bill would allow states to develop their own educator evaluation systems, if they chose, and would not require that student outcomes be included in an educator’s evaluation. While Kline has been a proponent of tying teacher evaluations to students’ performance on state tests (such language was included in Kline’s bill last Congress), he ditched the provision in the current bill in order to seek broader support from those who oppose the evaluation mandate.

A few amendments aimed at teacher quality were proposed during the markup but were defeated. The Kline bill gets rid of the “highly qualified teacher” requirements in current law and consolidates several teacher quality programs that exist in current law.

Other Issues

Kline’s legislation would consolidate several major programs aimed at educating certain populations of students, such as English language learners and migrant students, into the larger Title I program for low-income students, and states would receive block grant funding with far fewer strings attached to how the money is spent.

Ultimately, only four amendments were added to the bill during committee markup. All were authored by Republicans. In addition to the two adopted amendments mentioned above (pertaining to the disaggregated data of military dependent students and accountability requirements for English language learners), the committee passed an amendment to address student and teacher privacy and an amendment to require an annual report on the reduced federal role in education and cost savings resulting from H.R. 5.

The House has scheduled the bill for debate and a floor vote on February 24th. We will provide an update on Teach the Vote following any floor action, and you can follow the debate live here.

More on Sen. Alexander’s draft bill to reauthorize ESEA/NCLB

As we reported last week, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), released his version of a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The ESEA/NCLB is a law that determines the federal government’s role in public education. The contents of Alexander’s draft bill, the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015, are summarized below.

It is important to remember that this bill is in draft form. The Senate must still debate the bill in committee as well as the full Senate. If Alexander’s bill is voted out of the Senate, it will still have to undergo the same process in the House of Representatives. Should this bill advance through the process, many changes can be expected and ATPE will provide updates as warranted via Teach the Vote.

Related Teach the Vote content: For a quick recap on NCLB and what’s at stake in the reauthorization process, check out Predictions on No Child Left Behind in the 114th Congress.

Accountability

In a departure from current law, Alexander’s bill would allow states to develop their own accountability systems that would need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education based on parameters outlined in the bill. However, the department would be strictly prohibited from requiring anything outside of those parameters, such as imposing certain standards, curriculum, or assessments.

States’ plans would also be subject to a peer review process developed by the secretary of education. Peer review teams would be appointed and would have to include teachers, principals, researchers, and others who have had experience through direct employment in a school, school board, or local or state government. The goal of the peer review is to “promote effective implementation,” “provide transparent feedback,” and support “state- and local-led innovation.”

Testing

The portion of Alexander’s bill that deals with testing is designed to spur discussion. The intent is for the HELP committee to look at and debate two options:

  • Option 1. States would be required to develop an assessment system that tests students in math, reading/language arts, and science, but states would have a lot of leeway in developing the system.  States could implement annual testing, grade-span testing, summative testing, performance-based testing, a combination of annual and grade-span testing, or any other system of assessment developed by the state. States would not be required to seek approval from the secretary of education.
  • Option 2. This option would maintain the current testing schedule as implemented under NCLB, which requires states to test reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school and also requires states to test science three times at some point during grades 3-12.

In either case, states would be required to disaggregate data based on certain student populations, including race, poverty level, English proficiency, and disability status. For students with severe cognitive disabilities and English language learners, the bill would provide states with some testing flexibility.  Additionally, the bill would give school districts that wish to implement their own assessment plans authority to do so as long as they have approval from their state education agency and meet the parameters outlined under either option.

Related: In the first of a series of hearings, the HELP committee will meet Wed., Jan. 21, starting at 9:30 a.m. EST to discuss “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability.” Watch a webcast of the hearing here.

Curriculum Standards

States would be required to adopt “challenging state academic standards” that are consistent across all public schools in math, reading/language arts, and science, as well as any additional subjects a state may choose. Each state would also be required to adopt English language proficiency standards aligned with the state’s approved challenging state academic standards. States would also have the option to develop alternate academic achievement standards for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

States would not have to get approval of their curriculum standards from the Department of Education. Further, Alexander’s bill provides that the secretary of education would not have the authority to “mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervision” with regard to the adoption of state standards.

School Choice and Privatization

The primary provision in Alexander’s bill aimed at school choice is the portability of Title I funding for low-income students. It would provide an option for states to set up plans allowing students to move among public schools in their districts, with Title I funding following the students from school to school. For students wishing to move schools, priority would be given to students in the lowest-performing schools.

Alexander’s bill does not include provisions related to voucher programs, but it is expected to be a topic of discussion during debate.

Educator Evaluations

The bill would allow states to develop their own educator evaluation systems and would not require that student outcomes be included in an educator’s evaluation. States would have a lot of discretion on how they spend their money related to teacher quality (under Title II). They could choose to use it develop educator evaluation systems, for professional development, or on other initiatives aimed at teacher quality. In line with provisions included throughout the document, Alexander’s bill would prohibit the secretary of education from mandating or directing educator evaluation systems.

Related Teach the Vote content: Visit our Educator Evaluation Reform Resources page to learn more about Texas’s ongoing efforts to revise the state’s recommended system for teacher evaluation as a condition of a federal waiver of certain provisions in the ESEA/NCLB.

Congress passes government spending bill

Over the weekend, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill* that will fund most of the federal government through September 2015. The bill, which President Obama is expected to sign, funds the U.S. Department of Education at $70.5 billion. The funding level amounts to a $133 million decrease compared to the Department’s funding last year.

Most federal education program funding remained stagnant in comparison to last year, but some programs did receive a slight increase, others experienced cuts, and a handful were completely defunded. Here is a sample of how Pre-K-12 education programs fared:

  • Both Title I program funding and funding for state special education grants were increased by $25 million to $14.4 billion and $11.5 billion, respectively.
  • Race to the Top, one of President Obama’s signature competitive grant programs for which lawmakers have continually decreased funding in recent years, was eliminated.
  • Head Start will maintain the increased funding it received in 2014 with around $8.1 billion.
  • Funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund program, a competitive grant program aimed at experimental, district-level performance pay initiatives, was decreased to $230 million (a hit of about $60 million).
  • The Child Care Development Block Grant program was increased by $75 million. The increase will help fund updates Congress made to the program last month when the program was reauthorized.
  • The Preschool Development Grant program will receive a maintained level of funding at $250 million. Texas applied for a FY 2014 grant through this program but received word last week that it had been denied up to $120 million in funding for preschool expansion. The Texas proposal included a trial voucher program that drew criticism from many education and business advocates.
  • Funding for the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program will remain at $506 million. SIG grants are intended to help low-performing schools fund and implement a turnaround model (a plan to “turnaround” or improve the school’s performance) approved by the Secretary of Education.

*The spending bill combines two types of measures Congress uses to fund the government: a continuing resolution (CR), or short-term funding bill, that merely extends current funding levels while Congress works to reach an agreement, and an omnibus spending bill that encompasses many appropriations bills and funds the government longer-term. The CR and omnibus combination bill has led journalists, Washington politicos, and lawmakers to refer to the spending bill as a “cromnibus.”