Budget Briefings at Dept. of Ed and NSF; Hill event on STEM next week; K-12 STEM survey to S&T Committee; ESEA Reauthorization??

Greetings STEM Education Coalition Members!   Happy Friday. A few items for your consideration this morning.   First next week both the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation will be releasing their budgets for FY 2011 at their respective locations, invitations to both are attached.   Second, attached please find an invitation to a Hill event next Tuesday, February 2, from noon to 1:30 in Rayburn 2168 titled STEM Professionals in the Classroom: Volunteering to Improve K-12 Education. Speakers at the briefing will explore ways that STEM professionals are working with educators and schools to improve educational outcomes.
Third, just a reminder to review and return the K-12 STEM survey (sent earlier this week) to Bess Caughran (see attached email). The S&T Committee is very interested in community feedback on these issues before they begin work to reauthorize the America Competes Act.   Finally, following the President’s State of the Union speech, two articles (Washington Post Jan 28 and NYTimes Jan 29) below for your reading pleasure on the likelihood (or unlikelihood) that work with begin on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind).   Cheers   James and Jodi

James Brown

Co-Chair, STEM Education Coalition

Assistant Director, Advocacy

American Chemical Society

Office of Legislative Affairs

(202) 872-6229 (office)

(202) 872-6206 (fax)




Jodi Peterson

Co-Chair, STEM Education Coalition

Assistant Executive Director, Legislative and Public Affairs

National Science Teachers Association

1840 Wilson Blvd.

Arlington, VA  22201

(703) 312-9214 (office)

(703) 841-0250 (fax)




ADMINISTRATION PUSHES TO REWORK NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND LAW Washington Post — January 28,, 2010 By Nick Anderson

The Obama administration launched an effort Wednesday to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law, with a proposed increase in federal spending, a pledge to make the Bush-era school reform program more flexible and an appeal to Republicans for bipartisan cooperation.

To grease the legislative wheels, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, the administration will reserve $1 billion to fund programs that may emerge through a revision of the 2002 law. In addition, he said, President Obama is proposing to raise elementary and secondary education spending by $3 billion in the fiscal year that begins in October.

Overall, Duncan said, the education budget would increase by 6 percent.

That would be the most significant annual increase since 2003, not counting the large infusion of funds made last year through the economic stimulus law to prevent teacher layoffs.

With the budget proposal, Obama seeks to turn the page on an era of reform that his predecessor, George W. Bush, defined through a campaign slogan that morphed into a school accountability movement.

No Child Left Behind mandated an expansion of standardized testing to measure progress toward closing student achievement gaps — and imposed sanctions on schools that fell short. The concept has become ingrained in public education, but many experts say the law is overly punitive and ripe for revision.

“NCLB needs to be fixed right now,” Duncan told reporters. “Clearly our goal would be this year.”

Enacting a new version of what is formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would be a heavy lift as lawmakers face midterm elections. The law and the issues involved — standardized testing, teacher quality and many facets of school reform — are complex.

Congress last tried to rewrite the measure in 2007 but fell short.

On Jan. 20, the White House and Duncan convened key Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill to begin developing a road map for revising the law. “It was a very good meeting,” said Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), one of the participants. “It couldn’t have been more bipartisan.”

“We’re stepping off on the right foot,” said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the ranking member on the House Education and Labor Committee.

Obama’s proposed funding increase includes $1.35 billion for the “Race to the Top” competitive grants for school reform. That would build on a

$4 billion grant program launched through the stimulus law. Duncan said the administration is pushing to use more money as an incentive to reform, in contrast to formula-driven spending.

Prominent education advocates said they welcomed more funding. But state budgets, which account for far more of education spending than the federal share, are under enormous pressure because of declining tax revenue. There is huge demand for federal aid for special education and programs for the disadvantaged. And Obama is pushing a raft of initiatives on charter schools, teacher performance pay and other issues.

“Obviously, you’re no longer talking about a freeze, and that’s moving in the right direction,” said Joel Packer, director of the Committee for Education Funding, which represents dozens of education groups. “But there are still going to be a lot of unmet needs that education advocates are going to be working with Congress to try to address.”



In his State of the Union address, President Obama held out the hope of overhauling the main law outlining the federal role in public schools, a sprawling 45-year-old statute that dates to the Johnson administration.

But experts say it would be a heavy lift for the administration to get the job done this year because the law has produced so much discord, there is so little time and there are so many competing priorities.

In 2001, when Congress completed the law’s most recent rewrite, the effort took a full year, and the bipartisan consensus that made that possible has long since shattered. Today there is wide agreement that the law needs an overhaul, but not on how to fix its flaws.

Since it was recast into its current form by the second Bush administration — and renamed No Child Left Behind — it has generated frequent, divisive debate, partly because it requires schools to administer far more standardized tests and because it labels schools that fail to make progress fast enough each year as “needing improvement.” That category that draws penalties and has grown to include more than 30,000 schools.

Several states sued the Bush administration over the law in the last decade, unsuccessfully. Connecticut challenged its financing provisions, saying it imposed costly demands without providing adequate financing.

Arizona fought rules on the testing of immigrant students.

“Its hard to see how they can get” a rewrite done, said Joel Packer, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, which includes about 80 groups representing teachers, superintendents, principals, school boards and others. “If there’s some bipartisan agreement about what the administration proposes, and the Republicans say, ‘We want to work together,’ then maybe. But I think its going to be tough.”

During the 2008 campaign and his first year in office, President Obama’s posture was popular with almost everyone: the law embodies worthwhile goals like narrowing the achievement gap between minority and white students, he said, but includes flawed provisions that need fixing. Once any rewrite begins in earnest, however, Mr. Obama will need to support specific changes that will be unpopular with at least some groups.

“Few subjects divide educators more intensely,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a speech about the law in September.

In that speech, Mr. Duncan leveled some of his own criticisms of the law, including that it labeled schools as failures even when they were making real progress, and that it often inadvertently provided incentives for states to lower academic standards to avoid sanctions. He said he was eager to begin a rewrite.

“This work is as urgent as it is important.” Mr. Duncan said.

Mr. Obama communicated a lower sense of urgency on Wednesday, perhaps because the administration’s legislative agenda for the year is already packed.

“I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay,” the president said.

While he also urged Congress not to abandon the health care overhaul, on the education law, he said only, “When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress.”

Mr. Duncan said in an interview on Thursday that key lawmakers “share our sense of urgency” about the need for an immediate rewrite, and were already pitching in.

Last week Mr. Duncan and more than a dozen other administration officials met with the Democratic chairmen and ranking Republican members of the education committees in both houses of Congress to discuss the rewrite of the law, first drafted in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“We are blue-skying this thing, taking a big-picture approach, to try to coalesce the themes that are most important,” Mr. Duncan said. “It’s early, a million things could go wrong, but I’m hopeful.”


Changes in the Congressional leadership could complicate the effort. The death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who worked closely with President George W. Bush in 2001, removed a passionate believer in the law.

Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who replaced Mr. Kennedy as chairman of the Senate education committee, has other priorities. He wants to continue the law’s focus on closing achievement gaps, but to include an emphasis on school nutrition and physical fitness programs.

“We also need to take a new approach to things that are not working, like using the same solutions for all school problems,” Mr. Harkin said.

Some Republicans, including Representative John Kline, the Minnesotan who is the ranking minority member of the House education committee, say they want changes to the law, but are in no hurry.

“He’s not interested in an arbitrary deadline,” said Alexa Marrero, Mr.

Kline’s spokeswoman. “It’s a lot more important on something like this to get it right than to just get it done.”

Chester E. Finn, Jr., an assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration, wrote in a blog post on Thursday: “One can only wish them well, but reworking this monstrously complex statute is apt to prove almost as challenging as health care.”

“The odds of getting a full-dress reauthorization done between now and August are very, very slender,” Mr. Finn said in an interview.

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