Legislative Action Team Advisory

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005 3:00 PM

The House will be voting tonight on the spending bill for the U.S. Department of Education and the bill containing the Hurricane Katrina relief spending. Both will be voted on without amendment. The Senate did vote a 1% across the board cut last night, thus reducing spending for all education programs. The overall impact on NCLB is estimated by NEA to be $1 billion. Funding for schools and children impacted by Hurricane Katrina includes monies for displaced students attending both private and public schools as well as school re-start funds for private and public schools.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Letter to Senator Frist from IRA 3:00 PM 12/21/05

December 21, 2005

The Honorable William H. Frist
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Senator Frist:

Several policy changes that will harm public education are included in the important legislative agenda the United States Senate will be considering over the next several hours. I urge you and your colleagues to act in the best interests of America’s neediest children as you consider Department of Education funding, and funding for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

In particular, the International Reading Association is concerned about two proposals.

* The proposed across the board cut to education will do further damage to the ability of schools to close the achievement gap, which persists as the recent National Assessment of Education Progress demonstrates.

* Students displaced by Hurricane Katrina will be best served through limited use of public funds for private school students. The most equitable approach to rebuilding the education infrastructure is a public-private fund for the development of long-term support. Private schools should not be rebuilt before all public school construction has even begun.

As Alan Greenspan said in February 2004, “….one critical element in creating those opportunities (for an effective economy) is to provide rigorous education and ongoing training to all members of our society. This proposal is not novel; it is, in fact, the strategy that we have followed successfully for most of the past century and a strategy that we now should embrace with renewed commitment.”

Please urge your colleagues to ensure that children who are the most in need of a high quality education have schools that have the resources that they need.


Alan E. Farstrup
Executive Director

Monday, December 19, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005 10:00 PM

The House has adjourned but the funding for the Department of Education, budget issues, and funding for Katrina are still not finished. The Senate has to act. The Senate leadership has decided to try voting on a funding plan for ED as their last vote, most likely because they don't have the votes. Many are calling the Senate and still pushing for higher funding levels for critical programs like Title I and others. Even Start, for example, is still on the chopping block.

The Katrina issue is also still pending. The House put significant funds into supporting private schools, while the earlier compromise was to provide support to students. This is a big change and one many are calling their Senators about.

If you want to voice an opinion, call 202-224-3121 – the Capitol Switchboard – and ask for your Senator's office.

Monday December 19, 2005 11:50 AM

Early this morning, the House voted on the Defense Appropriations bill, which contains a one percent across-the-board cut to all domestic programs in the appropriations system (ED got cut by about $500 million). The bill also included funding for displaced Katrina students and $750 million to restart school operations. This provision sends funds to private and religious schools as well as public schools. The bill passed by a vote of 308–106.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Saturday 9:00 AM Update

This is an update to the earlier report:

An agreement has been reached in the House and Senate to support a program to provide public and private schools funds to repay the costs of accommodating displaced students. It will be offered by Senators Enzi (R-WY) and Kennedy (D-MA). Private schools would have to apply to local schools for funds. Attached to the budget reconciliation bill, the amendment was passed in the Senate by voice vote. BUT, and this is important, it hasn't been agreed to by the House of Representatives AND it will need to be added to the Defense Appropriations Bill – which may be voted on as early as Sunday night (12/18), or as late as Tuesday (12/20). The funding for the U.S. Education Department is expected to be put on the Defense bill as well.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Aid to Katrina impacts schools and children

Hurricane Katrina had a devastating and unprecedented impact on schools and students. Over 700 schools have been damaged or destroyed affecting over 372,000 students. As of December 16, there is a proposed amendment being considered in Congress on Hurricane Katrina Relief for displaced students and impacted schools. This amendment could be attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill HR 2863 which is considered a must pass bill.

This amendment would offer School Impact Aid through ED to the SEAs in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. The funds would be dispersed equitably to LEA’s and non-public schools for instruction, services, and assistance of displaced students in public and eligible non-public schools. Payments would be made on a quarterly basis for each student enrolled in a given quarter for a maximum payment of $6,000 and $7,500 for students with disabilities. Each SEA receiving funds emergency impact aid would provide to parents notification of the option of enrolling in a public or non-public school.

IRA is concerned that this measure may become a vehicle for the unrestricted use of federal funds by private schools. This would be a voucher that would be not be supported by IRA. Several members of Congress are pushing for this type of funding. Please contact your member of Congress and tell them to support funding using estblished principles and not turn this into a voucher.

IRA has issued the following statement:

“The Congress needs to act quickly to vote funds to support the needs of children and schools hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.” According to Alan Farstrup, executive director of the 90,000 member International Reading Association, “There is no reason to change long standing federal policies that focus support on children in-need and on public education. “Farstrup comments were prompted by an on-going Congressional debate, which seems to be without resolution, as to how best to provide federal funds to help schools in hurricane impacted areas.

“This catastrophe must be viewed as a unique event that requires exceptional and timely intervention to help students and schools in need. We shouldn’t change the fundamental principle that public monies flow through public agencies to help children and schools. Government must continue to provide support in ways that are non-ideological, non-sectarian, and that respect the civil rights of all. We should move forward based on our long standing and established principles.” Farstrup concluded, “We know how to do this. Now is not the time to delay sending funds where they are so badly needed. The children hit by these hurricanes are counting on us!”


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