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National PTA Legislative Conference: 3 Things Parents Need to Know About ESSA

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When the National PTA Legislative Conference meets next week, the big topic will be the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

About 250 members from Parent Teacher Association chapters across the country are meeting Tuesday through Thursday (March 8-10) in Arlington, Va., at the conference aimed at helping state and national leaders lobby in their own backyards and at the federal level.

"That is really the heart of PTA," said Jacki Ball, director of government affairs for National PTA. "A lot of parents and families get in the PTA because they want to support their child, but it becomes bigger than them."

Following the Dec. 10 signing of the federal law, known as ESSA, parents will focus on the next steps when it goes into full effect in the 2017-18 school year. (See Education Week's full explainer of ESSA.) The conference will host advocacy and training sessions on the law, as well as other hot topics.

Here are three priorities for the PTA:

Funding family centers: The act included Statewide Family Engagement Centers, which are grants to state organizations for family-engagement programs. But the centers aren't necessarily guaranteed money. In fact, President Barack Obama's proposed 2017 budget lacked funding for the centers, according to National PTA. The organization plans to push for restoration of funding for such centers.

Family engagement for low-income families: The act requires school districts that receive money for low-income children, called Title I, to use at least 1 percent of the federal funds for family-engagement activities, such as home visits and teacher training. National PTA is encouraging members to get involved in developing their districts' family-engagement plans so they can help direct the money.

Start helping now: Now that the law has been passed, states and school districts are starting work on their own accountability plans. National PTA is pushing parents to get involved now so they can have some say on how children will be assessed, what they will be tested on, and where the money will be spent.

"Our key priority is to make sure parents and families and PTAs are at the table with school districts while they are planning their implementation of the new law—that parents can be there and can be meaningfully involved and not just checking the box," Ball said.

National PTA has put out fact sheets on what parents need to know about ESSA. Check them out.

Contact Sarah Tully at [email protected].

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