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House version of NCLB revise would cost LA Unified $78.7 million

Mike Szymanski | August 3, 2015

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Superintendent Ramon Cortines

Superintendent Ramon Cortines

LA Unified’s chief lobbyist, Edgar Zazueta, told the school board last week that the House of Representatives version of the revised No Child Left Behind bill could cost the district $78.7 million in Title I money for low income schools, which translates to 22.9 percent of its funding.

The board has voted to protest the House bill but has yet to take a stand on the Senate version, which does not include that provision. Superintendent Ramon Cortines said that he will solicit input about how the district should respond to the Senate bill.

“It will no doubt not be everything we want, we will have to see what eventually comes through,” Cortines said.

The two bills, now before a House-Senate conference committee to reach a compromise, are efforts to revamp the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as” No Child Left Behind.” The efforts has been eight years in the making, and significant barriers and compromises remain, Zazueta told the board in his overview.

He predicted that the compromises could take several months, with the biggest issues over accountability, portability and funding. It remains unclear, he said if House Speaker John Boehner would bring the conference bill to the floor for a vote if it would lose a significant number of Republican votes.

In one major difference between the two bills, Zazueta said, the House version would allow parents to opt their children out of tests without penalties to schools. He warned that such action could lead to less accountability of schools, or comparisons across the country.

The House bill also eliminates all school improvement requirements while the Senate plan requires states to create their own testing system and monitor graduation rates.

“Both versions put more accountability on the states,” Zazueta said. “[President] Obama will need to add more teeth to the law to cover accountability.”

Each bill includes plans to eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) tests and most federal accountability. Both plans ask that states create a system for helping low-performing schools but don’t require specific actions. Nor do they require a certain percentage be identified as low performing.

“Of course, a lot of the votes are on partisan lines, but the good point is that there is bipartisan action in the Senate, and it is noteworthy that they have come together,” Zazueta said. “That has a good chance of going forward.”

Both bills would keep annual math and reading tests in grades 3 to 8 and once in high school. Also, science tests will span grades 3 to 5, 6 to 9 and 10 to 12. New subgroups would be added to reporting categories, such as foster youth and a students of a parent who is active duty in the Armed Forces. The Senate version adds homeless students as a category.

Both bills would eliminate the English Language Learner annual measurable objectives and accountability requirements. They eliminate High Qualified Teacher requirements and do not require states to develop educator evaluation systems.

“Even if we look at the good things that the new plans do, the fiscal provisions are too much to swallow,” Zazueta said.

For example, the House bill would freeze funding for six years and eliminate the Striving Readers literacy program, School Improvement Grants and Preschool Development grants. It would also consolidate many programs such as drug-free schools, after school, physical education, school counseling and other programs into one Local Academy Flexible grant.


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