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Daily Dish: Education Hearings on the Hill – Senate on ESSA, King on Budget

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February 25, 2016 02:58 pm

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Throughout the week there have been a series of hearings on Capitol Hill on key elements in the education world, including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the budget request from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for fiscal year 2017.

Education Week reports on the Senate education committee’s oversight hearing on ESSA, noting that accountability was in the spotlight. The article explains that the state officials, union leaders, and others who testified during the hearing “largely agreed on one point: The new flexibility for states and districts could lead to real progress.” During the hearing, Senators questioned those who testified on topics including “how they were rethinking school accountability under ESSA, whether they felt like they will have enough time to create and finalize their plans in order to receive federal funds, and whether the U.S. Department of Education should use a light touch or be aggressive when regulating under the new law.”

Wisconsin superintendent Tony Evers, who is also the president of the Council of Chief State Schools Officers, stressed the need for a balance under ESSA between state and federal powers. “In states like Wisconsin, we welcome oversight of the progress we are making, but it is important that states and local districts have the flexibility to identify how we achieve the goals we have set for students, the measures we include in our accountability system, the weight we give these measures, and how we design interventions that reflect the realities facing unique student populations across the state,” he said.

Senator Patty Murray emphasized the need for the ED to “use its full authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act to hold schools and states accountable for offering a quality education.” She expects ED to require that states create meaningful accountability systems and provide guidance on school interventions and support, according to the education news website The Seventy Four. Sen. Elizabeth Warren echoed these sentiments, noting that the ED has “clear authority to issue to regulations to strengthen, not weaken” accountability measures under ESSA.

For background on accountability provisions within ESSA, visit: all4ed.org/ESSA.

Also this week, Acting Education Secretary John King testified in front of the House Education and Workforce Committee on the ED’s budget request for fiscal year 2017. During the hearing, he was questioned on several issues that the department is looking to improve through the requested budget, Ed Week reports, including improving the teaching profession and increasing diversity in the teaching workforce. He expressed his concern that only 2 percent of teachers are African American males, making attracting more diverse leaders into the classroom a “hugely important” issue. King also addressed the “Stronger Together” initiative, which seeks to promote school integration, saying, “We want our schools to be places where students experience the kind of diversity that they will experience in the workforce.”

King also emphasized that the budget prioritizes equity and explained that it builds on the progress that has led to record-high graduation rates and decreasing dropout rates. More on the details of the budget hearing here: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2016/02/house_budget_hearing_with_king.html.

Tomorrow’s Dish will dive into the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ESSA oversight hearing and King’s confirmation hearing before the Senate HELP Committee. Stay tuned!

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