Federal news
U.S. House approves charter school legislation

As reported in previous issues of Essentials, activity related to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been picking up steam in our nation’s capital. Several hearings have been held, and several bills have been filed. The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved the first in a series of bills from the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce aimed at reforming the most recent iteration of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

The Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act was given bipartisan approval by the U.S. House when it voted to pass the bill 365–54. The bill is designed to promote the best practices of successful charter schools in traditional public schools and to expand enrollment opportunities in charter schools for disadvantaged students. According to the congressional press release, the bill will:

  • Encourage states to support the development and expansion of charter schools.
  • Streamline federal charter school program funding to reduce administrative burdens and improve funding opportunities for the replication of successful charter models and facilities assistance.
  • Support an evaluation of schools’ impact on students, families and communities, while also encouraging the sharing of best practices between charters and traditional public schools.
  • Offer incentives to states that use charter schools to reach out to special populations, including at-risk students.

The committee has approved two other bills in the series, one that focuses on education spending and one related to local funding flexibility, but neither has been brought to the House floor for a vote. The committee is also working on a bill that addresses teacher quality and accountability issues. A full package of education reform bills is expected to be considered this year.

Jobs bill could mean big money for Texas schools President Barack Obama is currently promoting a $447 billion jobs proposal that contains funding specifically earmarked for the renovation and modernization of Texas public schools, and funding that could help prevent layoffs.

Through the proposal, Texas could receive more than $2 billion from the bill—including $39.1 million for Arlington ISD, $84.9 million for Fort Worth ISD and $191.6 million for Dallas ISD—for such things as emergency repairs and renovations, energy efficiency and technology upgrades, asbestos abatement, and upgrades to shared community spaces for adult vocational development. Additional funding would be granted to the state based on its proportion of Title I funding. That funding could be used in other high-need school districts, including those in rural areas, and could help schools cope with the massive budget cuts enacted during the past legislative session.

The plan also includes more than $2.5 billion that could prevent and/or reverse layoffs for up to 39,500 educators and first responders.

Details are still scarce, and the proposal would have to be approved by Congress before any funding could be distributed.

Questions? Contact ATPE Governmental Relations.

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Essentials contains legislative advertising contracted for by Doug Rogers, Executive Director, Association of Texas Professional Educators, 305 E. Huntland Dr., Suite 300, Austin, TX 78752-3792, representing ATPE.

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