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AFT: Senate ESEA Bill Is a 'Strong Foundation'

The American Federation of Teachers generally likes the direction the Senate's bipartisan draft to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act is moving, according to a letter issued by the union April 14. 

The letter says the bill lays a "strong foundation" that "will protect [the] ESEA's original intent of mitigating poverty and addressing education equity, and moves away from the counterproductive focus on sanctions, high-stakes tests, federalized teacher evaluations and school closings." 

The generally positive tone is a departure from its sister union, the National Education Association. The NEA said earlier this week that the bill doesn't do enough to rectify inequities in funding and resources between affluent schoools and those serving more kids in poverty. 

What does the AFT like about the Senate draft? It likes that the bill: 

  • Preserves the law's paraprofessional qualifications for Title I schools;
  • Mantains districts' ability to use Title II funds to reduce class sizes;
  • Eliminates the federally mandated improvement strategies for schools that miss their annual testing targets;
  • Eliminates the requirement for schools to make "adequate yearly progress" and allows states to devise their own accountability systems;
  • Requires reporting on school climate; and
  • Doesn't mandate teacher evaluation.

The AFT had a few things it wanted to see improved, too. The union:

  • Opposes the effort make all the cash in the Title II (teacher quality) and IV (health and safety, afterschool) formula programs transferable, up from the 50 percent limit now;
  • Wants to see more data reported on school resource gaps (similar to the NEA's dashboard proposal);
  • Wants even more focus on early childhood education;
  • Thinks a local testing pilot program should be expanded beyond five states; and
  • Advocates for accountability testing to be further reduced to just three times, once each in elementary, middle, and high school.

So far, the NEA has been less specific about likes and dislikes, although we do know that the list of NEA's complaints includes the annual testing requirement—a policy that was preserved in the Senate draft. 

The bill, of course, is getting marked up in committee this week—see Politics K-12's update outlining for you what changes have been made so far, and stay tuned to the blog more coverage today as it continues.

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