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PTA Commends Family-Engagement Provisions in ESEA Bill

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The National PTA supports several family-engagement provisions in the bill the U.S. Senate may consider soon to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), according to National PTA President Betsy Landers.

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed the Strengthening America's Schools Act of 2013, which is the title of the legislation to reauthorize the ESEA. Education Week Politics K-12 blogger Alyson Klein writes that the legislation "actually has an outside chance of advancing to the floor of the Senate—which would be a big deal. The Senate hasn't considered an ESEA bill, since, well No Child Left Behind in 2001, which took almost two months to debate."

The proposed law "would build local and state capacity for effective family engagement in education by using research-based practices," said Landers.

In a phone interview today, Landers noted that the PTA in particular is pleased about:


  • Allowing an increase from 1 to 2 percent in Title I funds designated for family-engagement efforts,

  • A provision to reauthorize funding for the defunded Parent Information and Resource Centers (PIRC) program, and

  • Language that would allow contracting with experienced parent organizations to assist in training family-engagement best practices.

This last item could directly benefit the PTA, which would be likely to seek such contracts. "We really strongly advocate for sustainable and best practices in parent involvement in our schools, so we're happy to see this [provision] become part of this bill. It was not in previous reauthorization bills, and it is our sincere hope that it includes PTAs," she said.

At the prospect of increasing the Title I set-aside for family engagement from 1 percent to 2 percent, "we're really thrilled," Landers said. "That's something we have long advocated for strongly, and we're pleased to see that that was part of these improvements."

Rural areas in particular would benefit if the Parent Information and Resource Centers program is revived. Funding has been discontinued by the U.S. Department of Education. Therefore, most PIRC programs are no longer in operation, although several are continuing with funding from other sources, according to the National PIRC website.

"It's been a huge loss because PIRCs helped the PTA community to strengthen family-school partnerships," said Landers.

In its formal statement on the bill, the National PTA wrote: "Since 2007, Congress has failed families, students and educators by delaying a comprehensive reauthorization of the law. National PTA lauds the commitment of Congress to move reauthorization legislation forward this summer, and urges members of Congress to work together in a bipartisan manner to put the needs of children first."

In his Rick Hess Straight Up blog for Education Week, the American Enterprise Institute's education policy maven writes that he does not expect reauthorization to pass this year, or next.

Landers counters, "We're always positive, and looking forward to the reauthorization. We will be speaking out and advocating for it, having our network across the nation calling legislators to talk about reauthorization... Parents are very concerned and want to see reauthorization of the ESEA. It's our kids were talking about, and our school system."

See our full coverage of parent empowerment issues.

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