This Week & Next (Nov 20, 2015)

U.S. Senate and House conference committee agrees on ESEA/NCLB reauthorization
After years of stalemate in Washington, yesterday a U.S. Senate-House conference committee passed the framework of an agreement on a new federal education law to replace ESEA/NCLB on a strong bi-partisan vote of 39-1. The new law, dubbed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA), dramatically reduces the size of the federal footprint on education policy, returning flexibility and discretion to the states.   Key features of the compromise include a continuation of annual student testing in Math & Reading and requirements that states intervene in the bottom performing 5% of schools – but without the federal government telling states how to use testing data and to address failing schools. Unfortunately, funding portability to allow Title I and Special Education funds to follow students was not included in the final compromise. The full conference report will be available on November 30, and votes in the House and Senate are expected shortly thereafter. Kudos to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairs of the education committees, for working so diligently to get this major piece of legislation through the process. Click here for a single table with reauthorization highlights, and click here to download a short summary document of the reauthorization framework.

DPS reform rhetoric heats up
In anticipation of the introduction of bills from Sen. Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) and other legislators, the rhetoric is escalating around the state when it comes to how (or if) we should reform education in Detroit.  Sparks were flying as leaders of the Coalition to Save DPS demanded legislators introduce bills on December 1 while they also pledged NOT to provide financial funding to address the district’s debt; Speaker Cotter swung back at the foundation community after they supported the Detroit bankruptcy; and some local school districts are worried about picking up the tab for the DPS bailout while others are willing to wheel and deal with School Aid Fund dollars if they can get what they want. Other media reports indicate the Governor is tweaking his plan to appease Democratic legislators, such as having an elected board run the new traditional school district immediately, giving the Mayor more authority than the Governor and by eliminating the Education Achievement Authority (EAA).  As we’ve said for nearly 10 months, GLEP continues to work with key legislators to ensure that any reforms passed will preserve school choice, keep parents in charge of their children’s education, and increase accountability over poor performing schools.

Charters enroll record number of special needs students; mainstream more
A new national report illustrates that 12.6 percent of traditional public school students have special needs, compared with 10.4 percent of charter public school students. Despite this gap, enrollment of special needs students at charter public schools is at an all-time high.  In Michigan, the gap is slightly higher, with 9.6 percent of charter school students classified as having special needs, as opposed to 13.5 percent of students at traditional public schools. At the same time, the data shows the gap has been steadily shrinking and that charter public schools tend to “mainstream” special students at a higher rate than in traditional public schools.  You might be interested in this week’s MLive story which includes district-by-district enrollment figures for special education students in across the state.

Washington Supreme Court says NO to charter schools – AGAIN!
According to a story in The News Tribune, the Washington State Supreme Court announced yesterday it will not reconsider its September 4 decision declaring the state’s voter-approved law establishing charter schools as unconstitutional, mainly because the schools are overseen by boards that are appointed rather than elected. The high court had been asked to reconsider its decision by several pro-charter parties, and a slim 5-4 majority denied the request for reconsideration. The decision puts the state’s nine charter schools – just opened in August — have continued to stay open but remain in limbo due to the legal shenanigans led by the state teacher’s union. Click here to download the court ruling.

Kids Imagine Schools of the Future
If there is one thing we know for certain, it’s that technology is changing how we design and deliver education for students. But what will the schools of the future really be like?  Our friends at Connections Education, a leading provider of K-12 education services in the country, put together an interesting short video where brilliant young minds describe their vision of what schools will look like in the future. According to these kids, there is no limit to what school can be! Check it out!!

Legislators still in their districts this week and next
State legislators continue their “in-district work period” this week and next (see what I did there?), which includes firearm deer hunting season and the Thanksgiving holiday. Despite the break, work continues behind the scenes on prepping DPS legislation and efforts to prepare HB 4822 (K-3 Reading) for hearings and passage in the State Senate.

Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday, November 23

Tuesday, November 24

  • Senate and House on Legislative Recess

Wednesday, November 25

  • Senate and House on Legislative Recess

Thursday, November 26

  • Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 27

  • “This Week & Next” will NOT be published due to Thanksgiving holiday

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Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director