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Senate Ed. Committee Marking Up ESEA Rewrite: Study the Amendments

The Senate education committee will mark up a bipartisan rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Tuesday afternoon, and it plans to convene potentially through Thursday while its members consider nearly 90 amendments filed to the bill.

Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., have the difficult task of preserving the compromise measure that they spent two months carefully crafting—a tricky endeavor when members on both sides of the aisle wish to bend the bill more to their liking.

For example, Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., filed a slew of amendments relating to Title I portability that would allow funding for low-income students to follow those students to the public or private school of their choice. Scott also plans to offer an amendment that would allow Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding to follow students to the school of their choice.

And Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other Democrats filed several amendments aimed at strengthening various parts of accountability system, such as requiring states to identify their poorest-performing schools.

Alexander and Murray will also have a wade through amendments that deal with social issues. Several members, including Alexander, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Robert Casey, D-Pa., filed amendments to address bullying, specifically to provide protections for LGBT students.

Meanwhile, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who is a former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, filed the most amendments—18 in total—that generally focus on improving teacher and principals.

Remember, just because a senator filed an amendment doesn't mean he or she will offer it. Senators can choose to offer and then withdraw an amendment, or not offer one at all.

Out of the nearly 90 amendments that Politics K-12 got its hands on, here are some of the ones that stand out:

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.:

  • Filed an amendment that would allow states to provide grants to local school districts to allow Title I dollars for low-income students to follow the students to the public school they attend.
  • Filed an amendment that would require background checks for all school employees. The language is largely pulled from the amendment he offered to the anti-human-trafficking bill that's currently stalled in the Senate. When he proposed the amendment as part of that bill, it garnered support from the two national teachers' unions, a slew of civil rights organizations, and AASA, the School Superintendents Association.
  • Filed an amendment on bullying that would allow states and local school districts to use federal funding to establish, implement, or improve policies and procedures that prevent bullying or harassment. The amendment specifically says the policies may include addressing bullying or harassment based on characteristics that include a student's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.:

  • Filed an amendment based on the SMART Act that would provide competitive grants to states to work with institutions of higher education to improve the quality, validity, or reliability of state assessments; to develop or improve assessments for students with disabilities; to measure student growth over time; and to evaluate student achievement through new assessments, such as competency-based models, computer-adaptive tests, or portfolios. States could also use funding under this section to audit their state assessments.
  • Filed an amendment that focuses on education from birth through graduation. It would provide grants to states to strengthen support for children by increasing the number of children who receive early interventions for risk factors associated with not graduating; who benefit from better coordination of federal, state, and local education programs; who successfully transition from pre-K to kindergarten, kindergarten to elementary, etc.; who graduate prepared for work or college; and who earn college-level credits or professional certificates.
  • Filed an amendment (that has the support of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah) that would create a grant program called I-Tech that would allow schools to use technology to improve college- and career-readiness among students, the skills of teachers and school leaders, and increase the effectiveness of the entire education system.
  • Filed an amendment regarding next-generation high schools that would provide grants that support comprehensive high school redesign, especially for underserved students. Redesigns would aim to increase graduation rates, provide opportunities for students to earn college credits, increase readiness to go into STEM fields, and increase postsecondary enrollment and graduation.
  • Filed an amendment that would require states to assess disparities in Title I funding equity among its districts.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.:

  • Filed an amendment that would provide grants to local school districts and community-based organizations to improve physical education programs.
  • Filed an amendment on comparability that would allow a local school district to be eligible for Title I funds only if it demonstrates that the combined state and local per-pupil expenditures in each school served under Title I were not less than the average combined state and local expenditures for those schools not served under Title I.
  • Filed an amendment that would require states to notify parents about the number of federal and state assessments required for each school year, and other information about those tests, including subject matter, length of test, and whether it's for a federal or state requirement.
  • Filed an amendment that would require students to spend on average less than 3 percent of instructional time on assessments.
  • Filed an amendment that would require states to identify their lowest-performing 5 percent of schools.
  • Filed an amendment that would create a grant to allow a cadre of effective teachers to lead evidence-based professional development for their peers; to provide career opportunities for teachers to grow as leaders, including hybrid roles that allow teachers to voluntarily serve as mentors or academic coaches while remaining in the classroom; and to provide training and support for teacher leaders and school leaders who are recruited as part of instructional leadership teams.
  • Filed an amendment that would allow funding to be used to create teacher and principal preparation academies, an idea pulled from Bennet's GREAT Act.
  • Filed an amendment that would allow states and school districts to use funding to implement and enhance family-engagement programs.
  • Filed an amendment that would create an advanced research department inside the U.S. Department of Education that pursues breakthrough research in educational technology to improve student achievement. This amendment is largely pulled from the ARPA-ED education research bill.
  • Filed an amendment that would require the U.S. Secretary of Education to engage in outreach to rural school districts regarding their opportunity to apply for competitive grants.
  • Filed an amendment (with the support of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah) that would provide grants to states and schools to develop, implement, replicate, or scale up rigorous testing of entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students.
  • Filed an amendment that would create a pilot program that gives school districts the flexibility to consolidate federal, state, and local funding to create a single school funding system based on weighted per-pupil allocation for low-income and disadvantaged students.
  • Filed an amendment that would establish an Office of Rural Education Policy in the Education Department to provide input to the secretary of education on the impact of proposed education policy changes to rural schools and communities.

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa.:

  • Filed an amendment that would provide grants to develop, produce, and distribute education and instructional video programming for preschool and elementary school students and their parents.
  • Filed an amendment that would specifically define what it means to be "profession-ready" for a teacher and principal. For example, a "profession-ready" teacher would be one who has completed a teacher-preparation program and is certified and licensed by the state; has demonstrated content knowledge in subject being taught; and has demonstrated teaching skills, such as through a teacher-performance assessment or residency program.
  • Filed an amendment on bullying that would include bullying as part of the definition of "harassment," and would require states to establish policies to prevent harassment and bullying, and collect and report annual incidences for each school.
  • Filed an amendment that would allow states to partner with various organizations to increase the number of students with a well-rounded education. The funding would be used for high-quality instruction in various education subjects, including arts, civics, economics, environmental studies, financial literacy, foreign languages, etc.
  • Filed an amendment that would create a grant program for school districts that wish to reduce exclusionary discipline practices in elementary and secondary schools.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.:

  • Filed four amendments about learning disabilities that are specifically aimed at ensuring more supports for students with dyslexia.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.:

  • Filed the Student Non-Discrimination Act as an amendment. It would create a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination and bullying in public schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Filed an amendment that would to establish a grant program for the educational stability of children in foster care.
  • Filed an amendment that would reinstate the existing Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program in Title IV.
  • Filed an amendment that would require academic assessments to evaluate if students are on grade level and what grade level they perform at, and would not prohibit state computer-adaptive assessments.
  • Filed an amendment that would create a grant program to pay for Advanced Placement tests and to create and support accelerated learning programs.
  • Filed an amendment aimed at improving STEM instruction that would create a STEM Master Teacher Corps.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.:

  • Filed an amendment that would clarify that nothing in the federal law can pre-empt state or local law regarding parent or guardian rights.
  • Filed an amendment that would eliminate the 1 percent cap on the number of students assessed using alternate assessments.

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.:

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska:

  • Filed an amendment that would reinstate the 21st Century Learning Communities into Title IV.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.:

  • Filed an amendment that would require states to identify low-performing schools that did not meet the state standard for two years in a row.
  • Filed an amendment aimed at improving early education by allowing grant recipients to use funds to grow educator salary level.
  • Filed an amendment that would to ensure state policy works to reduce threats of physical and mental abuse related to seclusion and restraint.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.:

  • Filed an amendment that would create a grant to allow states to better coordinate their early-education services.
  • Filed an amendment that would require data collection of military-connected students.
  • Filed an amendment based on Project SERV that would provide education-related services to school districts and institutes of higher education dealing with a violent or traumatic crisis.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.:

  • Filed an amendment that would allow Title I funds for low-income students to follow them to the public or private school of their choice.
  • Filed an amendment that would allow Title I funds for low-income students to follow them to the public or private school of their choice.
  • Filed an amendment that would strengthen existing language that specifies that no state is required to adopt the Common Core State Standards.
  • Filed an amendment that would support evidence-based practices to deal with juvenile delinquency.
  • Filed an amendment based on the A-Plus Act that would give states the authority to combine federal funds.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.:

  • Filed an amendment that would allow funding from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to follow students with disabilities to the school of their choice.
  • Filed an amendment that would allow Title I dollars for low-income students to follow them to the public or private school of their choice.
  • Filed an amendment that would expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, a federally-funded voucher program for low-income students in Washington.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

  • Filed an amendment that would require states to identify schools with low graduation rates for intervention and support.
  • Filed an amendment that would require accelerated academic gain from schools farthest from their state's academic goals, and set a multiyear graduation rate goal of 90 percent.
  • Filed three amendments aimed at building more accountability into schools that seek a waiver to run a schoolwide Title I program.
  • Filed an amendment that would support a program designed to explore the effectiveness of services that increase student awareness of and access to post-secondary education.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.:

  • Filed an amendment that aims to help middle-grade students who are at risk of dropping out of high school to make the transition to and complete their secondary schooling.
  • Filed an amendment that would improve literacy and college and career readiness through effective school library programs.
  • Filed an amendment that would provide grants to states and school districts to scale up innovation schools.
  • Filed an amendment that would establish a literacy and arts program in Title V that deals with charter schools.
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