Join Fellow LaTEACH Members!
Your U.S. Congressmen need to hear your thoughts on the Re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)!
February 25, 2015

Please accept this correction to information sent yesterday regarding changes to the federal law, Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently going through Congress.  There are two bills being considered with ESEA:

Congress seems poised to make some needed changes to this massive federal education law.  ESEA impacts education for every student, including students with disabilities, as it is the foundation behind many decisions at the state, district, school and student levels. 

Both bills passed through committee and are headed to their respective full floor votes in each chamber.  This Friday, the House is expected to vote on the Student Success Act.


Each bill contains similar changes to existing law.  The major changes that directly impact students with disabilities are how standards and tests are determined at the federal level.  In general, the bills would shift authority away from the federal government and toward the state and local systems in defining standards and assessments, and in how schools should be evaluated and what actions should be taken with schools who need assistance.  Since the bills cover so much ground there are a number of issues that may also indirectly impact students with disabilities. See the summary below of the major changes being proposed.
Standards and Tests
States would still have academic standards and test students in 3rd through 8th grades and in high school.  In general, there would be more state and local control over things like which standards and tests to use; however, the proposed changes state that academic standards must be aligned with college readiness. Given the reduced federal role in defining the standards it does not seem the singular definition of success (i.e., college ready) would be as threatening to students who are below proficiency.  Most students with disabilities across the nation score below proficiency on standardized tests.
The definition of proficiency is based, in part, on a comparison of how all students perform. So defining the academic success, or failure, of students with disabilities using standardized tests essentially defines many students as failing based on the student having a disability. What does this mean for graduation requirements? Nothing.  Federal law does not indicate requirements toward graduation - there is not a U.S. high school diploma.  Graduation requirements are local decisions since teachers award the credits necessary for earning a high school diploma.
School and Teacher Accountability
Schools and teachers would still be evaluated based on how well students perform on statewide assessments.  States, not the federal government, would now determine appropriate actions with schools deemed to need assistance.  
Charter Schools and Choice
The bills seek to increase the number of charter schools and increase the choice of students below poverty with attending public schools outside of their residential school district.  Federal funds for students in poverty, called Title I funds, would be allowed to follow a child to a different public school. This shift in funding is significant. The current funding formula addresses the compounding impact poverty levels have on a school. Think of the difference in impact on whether every student in a school is living below the poverty line compared to a school with only one student living below the poverty line. To make up for differences in resources for poverty related issues, schools with very high concentrations of students in poverty receive more funding than do schools with lower concentrations of students in poverty. Some concerns have been raised about this change making it more difficult for a school district to send resources to schools most in need. 
The bills seek to relax some requirements for schools to spend the same amount of money on some programs, called maintenance-of-effort.  Some analyses indicate that this may divert existing money in poor school districts into more wealthy school districts.
Additional Information
Read the Principles for the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (a coalition of national organizations)
Read CASE's ESEA Reauthorization Recommendations from the Council of Administrators of Special Education, a division of the Council for Exceptional Children.
What To Do?
Click the links below to email your thoughts on the re-authorization to ESEA to your U. S. Congressmen:

U. S. Representatives - Louisiana

Representative Cedric Richmond


Representative Charles Boustany, Jr., M.D.


Representative Garret Graves 

Representative John Fleming, M.D. 


Representative Ralph Abraham


Representative Steve Scalise


U. S. Senators - Louisiana

Senator David Vitter


Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D.

Any questions?
If there are any questions about the information in this alert, contact LaTEACH at:
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Phone: 1-800-450-8108
Phone: 1-800-894-6558

LaTEACH is an initiative of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council.