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Civil Rights Groups Urge Congress to Maintain Federal Role in NCLB Overhaul

Nearly 20 civil rights groups are urging members of Congress to maintain a robust role for the federal government in education when they reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and to ensure that low-income students, students with disabilities, and others aren't shortchanged when it comes to educational opportunities.

Among other things, their wish list for the overhaul of the ESEA includes access to early-childhood education for economically disadvantaged children and those with disabilities, a requirement that states adopt college- and career-ready standards, and maintaining the current testing regimen.

The list of principles, released on Sunday, also calls for protecting Title I funding for high-poverty school districts and for increased data collection to include information on the use of exclusionary discipline practices, use of police in schools, and student referrals to law enforcement.

The slate of recommendations was signed by 19 civil rights groups, including The Education Trust, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, and the National Urban League.

Blueprints for reauthorizing the ESEA law have been flooding in from various stakeholders as lawmakers in both chambers begin crafting legislation.

On Saturday, the 1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers' president, Randi Weingarten, outlined her priorities for a reauthorization. Among other things, her list includes a new title that would provide grants to states for wraparound services, incentives to attract and retain teachers in high-poverty schools, and an overall maintaining of the federal government's oversight role so that it continues casting a strong light on subgroup performance.

Other stakeholders are honing in specifically on the current federal testing requirement—the education policy debate garnering the most attention early in the reauthorization process as Republicans look to potentially roll back that mandate.

On Friday, the vice president of the Business Roundtable, Dane Linn, posted a story on the organization's blog, underscoring that the business community would not support a move by lawmakers to scrap the annual federal testing requirements.

Meanwhile, some education organizations would ideally like to go even further on testing than the proposals that have already been floated. AASA, the School Superintendents' Association, has long advocated for switching to an assessment regime that allows districts to test just a representative sample of students, not every kid. (Schools already do that for the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP, aka the "nation's report card.")

Where do other organizations stand? We're working on it. Politics K-12 will be doing periodic round-ups of different groups' ESEA wish lists over the next few weeks, so send 'em our way.

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