Legislative Action Team Advisory

Friday, June 29, 2007

IRA Legislative Update for July 1, 2007


This report will cover legislative actions that reflect a wide range of issues that are “in play.” This means that they are in different parts of the legislative process, some at the committee level and others going to the floors of various chambers. Specifically this report will cover: Appropriations, NCLB, Head Start, Higher Ed, and Workforce Investment.

Appropriations – FY 08
Cuts to Reading First
Increases for Title I

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have both met and made decisions about education spending. Both have proposed increases for education but differ in their amounts. The House education subcommittee is $4.2 billion dollars above last year’s spending level, while the Senate proposed a $2 billion dollar increase. Both have recommended cuts to Reading First (House by $629 million and the Senate by $229 million) due to their concern with how the US Department of Education managed the program. In contrast both chambers proposed significant increases to Title I, programs for teachers, ELL programs and others.

Of note is that the House full appropriations committee will be meeting the week of July 9 to take up the bill with floor action now expected the following week. Congressman Obey (D-WI) chair of the committee has met with representatives of the education community to ask their support of his bill. He is not planning on accepting any amendments as he hopes to hold a bi-partisan coalition together to support these increases.

Head Start Reauthorization

On Tuesday, June 19, 2007, the Senate passed its version, S. 556, of the Head Start Reauthorization Act which would authorize the program for another 5 years. The Senate bill authorizes increased funding of $7.3 billion in FY 2008 to expand Head Start. This is $400 million more than FY 2007. The bill calls for funding to grow to $7.5 billion in FY 2009 and $7.9 billion in FY 2010. The Senate bill would expand Head Start eligibility for children up to 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), a 30 percent increase from the current eligibility standard. It would also improve program quality, and give Head Start officials a larger role. The House version, HR 1429, was passed in May. Both bills add language detailing use of training funds to support enhanced early language and preliteracy development of children in Head Start programs. The bill now goes to a House-Senate Conference who will negotiate the bill's final version before it is sent to the White House for President Bush's signature.

Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization

On June 20, 2007, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved the Higher Education Amendments of 2007, S. 1614, and the Higher Education Access Act of 2007, S. 454. Both bills would combine current grant programs into a single initiative which would enable colleges to partner with high-needs school districts in order to provide extensive field experience for prospective teachers and to establish induction programs to provide extra assistance and training for first- and second-year teachers.

The Senate approval came one week after the House education panel approved its version. The Senate bill would cut subsidies to lenders by $18.3 billion; the House version would cut subsidies by about $19 billion. Both bills would direct up to $1 billion to deficit reduction and put the rest of the money into student aid. The proposals would have borrowers pay no more than 15 % of their discretionary income for federally backed student loans which would be forgiven after 25 years. The Senate measure would gradually boost the maximum Pell grant, the nation's main aid program for low-income students, from $4,300 to $5,400 a year. The House plan calls for a smaller grant increase but would cut in half the interest rates on federally backed student loans, to 3.4 %.

Senior Democrats predict that the bills could come to a vote by the end of July and would be reconciled without significant difficulty.

Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization
Adult ed programs
National Institute for Literacy

The Department of Labor submitted a Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization proposal to Congress on June 7, 2007. The “Workforce Investment Act Amendments of 2007” would reauthorize and reform title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). The initiative is designed to improve the effectiveness and competitiveness of American workers by increasing education and training opportunities. The plan would provide greater flexibility to states and local areas, and strengthen the One-Stop Career Center system. Funds appropriated for the WIA Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth Programs and the Employment Service would be consolidated and allocated to states – and through states to local areas – as a single funding stream for Career Advancement Accounts (CAA) and employment services for job seekers and employers.

No Child Left Behind Reauthorization
Key Issues Still To Be Resolved
Movement in July??

Reading First

The president on June 26th made a statement calling for the rewriting of NCLB this year. Both the House and Senate education committee chairman continue to push for the reauthorization. Several times we have heard that each committee will have a bill drafted in July. What isn’t clear is how comprehensive these drafts will be. The House may move a bill that is almost a placeholder. This means that the committee will have a bill but that the decisions will be negotiated between the committee meeting and going to the floor, this type of “managers package” is often done to keep the process moving. Currently we believe that both the House and Senate are working to change how the accountability system is conducted to allow for use of growth models, but specifics haven’t been finalized. Among the questions are how to hold school accountable yet be realistic in working with ELL and handicapped populations. The question is how to balance the idea of maintaining a high level of attention on specific populations while at the same time not treating every school that has some challenges the same as a school that has many challenges.

Reading and literacy programs are also in the mix of the discussions. Both House and Senate education committees are interested in middle and high school literacy. IRA has been pushing the Striving Readers legislation but others are suggesting that a more comprehensive program of high school reform would be more productive. In addition, we are also expecting changes in Reading First – with explicit ethics requirements and perhaps a wider scope for the program.


While many observers are saying NCLB will not be reauthorized this year, the process is still moving forward. IRA leaders need to be aware that many political and education leaders want to see changes in NCLB that will reduce the number of schools that are identified as “in need of school improvement.” The problem is achieving a consensus as to what changes are needed – political leaders are hearing a wide range of opinions from educators and civil rights leaders with little convergence.

The appropriations process shouldn’t escape attention, the House overall funding level is most likely the “high-water mark” for money this cycle. IRA members should review the attached chart and decide whether or not they want to send a letter to their house member to ask them to support the spending plan.

Monday, June 11, 2007

FY 2008 House Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriation

FY 2008 House Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriation

On Thursday the House education subcommittee drafted their spending plan for FY 2008 with $61.7 billion proposed education. This is a $4.2 billion (7.4%) increase above last year (FY 2007) levels.

Reading First $618 million cut
Early Reading First $3.1 million cut

Striving Readers FY08 $31, 870
NIFL $6,583 million

Title I Grants to LEA’s + $1.5 billion
Even Start +16,717 million

Link to full appropriation detail:

Full committee action is expected on Thursday June 14

Monday, June 04, 2007

Government Relations Update

The Congress is moving quickly on two critical sets of issues, the rewriting of NCLB and the funding for literacy programs. This update is going to provide you with information on what is happening and suggest that you take action.

Budget and Appropriations
Federal spending on education programs could increase significantly next year under the plan laid out in the budget resolution. The resolution sets the discretionary spending for the federal government. The process is directing that over $ 9 billion additional dollars – above the president’s plan be spent on education programs.

IRA is requesting the following spending levels for federal literacy programs:
Title I Grants to LEA’s $14 billion
Even Start $250 million
Early Reading First $120 million
Reading First $ 1,041 million
Striving Readers $200 million

Other Literacy Programs:
Literacy through Libraries $25 million
Reading is Fundamental $30 million
National Writing Project $25 million
Adult Basic and Literacy Education $700 million
National Institute for Literacy $7 million

Contact you Senators and ask them to support increased funding for literacy instruction.

Senator Tom Harkin (Chairman) (IA)
Senator Daniel Inouye (HI)
Senator Herb Kohl (WI)
Senator Patty Murray (WA)
Senator Mary Landrieu (LA)
Senator Richard Durbin (IL)
Senator Jack Reed (RI)
Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ)

Senator Arlen Specter (Ranking Member) (PA)
Senator Thad Cochran (MS)
Senator Judd Gregg (NH)
Senator Larry Craig (ID)
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX)
Senator Ted Stevens (AK)
Senator Richard Shelby (AL)

NCLB reauthorization
The House Education and Labor Committee could begin considering a draft reauthorization bill as early as mid-June. In the Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) also hopes to have a reauthorization bill ready for consideration by late July. These base introduction bills will provide the main framework of the reauthorization.

On May 16, members of the House Education and Labor Committee held a bipartisan meeting to hear recommendations and concerns from other members of Congress on ways to improve the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Chairman Miller’s press release about the meeting is available at: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/edlabor_dem/RelMay16NCLB.html .

Look for prospective changes to current law in the following areas:
• Teacher quality
• Teacher preparation
• Sanctions
• Assessments
IRA’s recommendations for NCLB can be found on the IRA website.

Striving Readers S.958 and H.R. 2289
IRA has been working for several years to create an adolescent literacy initiative. We have been working with the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Alliance for Excellent Education has worked for the past year to expand the Striving Readers program. This Act will authorize adolescent literacy grants to be awarded to states on a formula basis according to poverty levels and 8th grade NAEP reading scores. Local districts will be able to use these funds to develop schoolwide literacy plans and provide professional development in core academic subjects.

Striving Readers Bills have been introduced in both the Senate (S. 958 on March 22) and House (H.R. 2289 on May 14)

Has your Representative become a House co-sponsor?
Sponsors to date Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY) Todd Platts (R-PA)
Boyd (D-FL), Chandler (D-KY), Hínojosa (D-TX), McGovern (D-WA), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rogers (R-AL), Bonner (R-AL), Regula (R-OH), Grijalva (D-AZ), Altmire (D-PA), Hirono (D-HI), Davis (D-IL), Payne (D-NJ), Hare (D-IL), Clark (D-NY)

If not please contact them and urge then to become a cosponsor. House website:

Has your Senator become a co-sponsor?
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
Cosponsors: Senators Kerry, Cochran, Akaka, Lott, Dodd, Burr, Bingaman, Lincoln, Domenici, Isakson, Durbin, Harkin, Murkowski, Brown and Bayh

If not please contact them and urge then to become a cosponsor.
Senate website: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

The Teach Act H.R. 2204 S.1339
Introduced by Chairman Kennedy in the Senate and Chairman Miller in the House to improve recruitment, preparation, distribution and retention of teachers and principals. This is an important initiative that can make a big difference. Please write your member of Congress to ask for their support.

TEACH Grants Undergraduate grants up to $16,000 and graduate grants up to $8,000 for teachers who teach for 4 years within an 8 year period in the following fields:
Math, science, foreign language, bilingual education, or special education or a reading specialist or another field documented by the federal government. Reading is considered a high need subject.
• Graduated loan forgiveness for Reading Specialists
• Career ladder Teacher Program Grant to LEA’s
• Federal augmentation of pay ($4,000 - 10,000) for mentors, coaches, school leadership teams
• Teacher Centers
• Provide intensive professional development and support to improve instruction
• Tax relief on added compensation for high needs subject teachers and principals.

Portions of this bill are expected to be included in Title II of NCLB reauthorization, Title II of HEA reauthorization and a tax bill.

To support this bill contact your Senator or Representative:
Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
House: http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml

Adult Ed – Higher Education – Head Start
In addition the Congress is working on several other reauthorizations that will impact the literacy community. Congress is currently considering legislation to reauthorize and improve the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, Title II of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. This act is important to family literacy because the law specifies family literacy as an option to meet adult education and literacy needs. One of the purposes of the act is to "assist adults who are parents to obtain the educational skills necessary to become full partners in the educational development of their children." Family literacy programs are eligible providers under this law. The provisions of the act are administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

The "Improving Head Start Act of 2007" passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 365-48 on May 2, 2007. H.R. 1429 will help more children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed by improving program quality and expanding access to more children. The bill:
*Improves Classroom and Teacher Quality –Requires each Head Start agency to ensure that all of its teachers receive ongoing training in language and emergent literacy.
*Expands Access – Authorizes $450 million in new funding for fiscal year 2008 which would provide up to 10,000 more children access to the program.
* Strengthens the Focus on School Readiness – Ensures all programs use research-based practices to support the growth of children’s pre-literacy and vocabulary skills.
* Ends Inappropriate Testing of 4-Year Olds - Prohibits further use of the National Reporting System.
*Promotes Stronger Accountability
* Ensures Parental Participation in Program Governance
*Fortifies Comprehensive Services – Places greater emphasis on early identification of child and family mental health needs

The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) was last renewed in 1998. Many of the law’s provisions were set to expire in 2003, but Congress has passed renewals to extend the measure to June 30, 2007. The legislation authorizes many federal higher education programs, including Pell Grants, student loans, and initiatives in teacher education.

Title II of HEA provides funding to improve the quality of teacher education programs and to recruit teachers to serve in high-need schools. Title II of the No Child Left Behind law provides grants to states to improve teacher quality and reduce class sizes. The reauthorization of the two laws provides Congress an opportunity to consider whether they are aligned with respect to teacher preparation.

In closing... a call to action….
This update contains several requests for action. Please look to see which committee your member of Congress is on and write them on the issue that they are addressing this month.

If you have only one issue to write on, choose the Teach Act. It is unique in that it makes reading specialists an area of national need – for the first time - and provides resources that can be built on. Calling a Congressional office can be as easy as 202-225-3121 and asking for your member of Congress or Senator. It takes only a few moments. Each call or letter counts.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Washington Office of IRA at 202-624 -8800 or irawash@reading.org.