Lobby Report – Sept. 2010

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Illinois NEA Directors Lobbying Report, Sept. 30, 2010, Washington, D.C.

NEA Government Relations Briefing

NEA Directors Jim Grimes and Terrie Tudor, and IEA Vice Pres. Bob Blade

NEA Staff briefed on issues for lobby teams and prospects for the upcoming elections.

NEA’s basic tenets for reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA or NCLB). These tenets include:

  • Accountability systems that recognize schools that make progress toward achieving learning goals and correctly identify struggling schools – to provide meaningful support instead of punishment; base determinations of school success on multiple measures, not just limited test scores
  • Support for school transformation models that promote innovation through collaboration among all stakeholders
  • Ensuring continued targeting of most federal education resources to schools with the greatest need through fully-funded formula-driven programs instead of competitive grants
  • Belief that effective teaching goes far beyond knowledge of subject matter and is much more than what can be measured by test scores
  • Rejection of any proposed cuts to Social Security benefits, including an increase in the retirement age; opposition to risky privatization schemes; and repeal of the GPO/WEP.

NEA Fund for Children and Public Education Exec. Committee

IEA Represented by Pres. Ken Swanson

Observers NEA Directors Terrie Tudor and Jim Grimes, and IEA Vice Pres. Bob Blade

NEAFCPE approved recommendations for various elections.

Capitol Hill and Government Office Visits

Representative Judy Biggert R-13

Met with: Representative Biggert, Brian Looser and additional staff

NEA Directors:  Kathi Griffin, Al Llorens and Gary Miller

1.  ESEA Reauthorization: Will the Member sign onto the letter being circulated by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) on assessments and accountability?

Rep. Biggert was not aware of the letter that Rep. Moore was circulating regarding assessments and accountability.  She indicated that she would read the letter and then decide if she would sign it.  She did indicate that she and Representative Moore talk quite frequently and was surprised that she hadn’t seen the letter yet.

2.  ESEA Reauthorization: Priority Schools/Turnaround Models.
Rep. Biggert understands how poverty impacts students’ education.  She understands how violence and family issues also impact students’ education.  She supports NEA’s response.

3.  ESEA Reauthorization/Education Funding: Formula v. Competitive Grants.
Representative Biggert is not in favor of competitive grants however she wants to make sure that education dollars are used in a responsible way.

4.  ESEA Reauthorization; Effective Teaching.
Congresswoman Biggert understands the importance of NOT basing a teacher’s effectiveness using student test scores.  She understands the complexity of the responsibilities of an effective teacher and feels that if an educator is not effective that should be determined prior to teachers receiving tenure.  She is pro growth model, feels that we need to support vocational education, need to increase our focus on Science and Math as well as financial literacy.

5.  Social Security: Protect Benefits.
Once again, Representative Biggert was not aware of this letter. She said that she will look for it and, after reading it, let us know if she will sign it or not.  She indicated that this is only a part of what needs to be looked at.  She told us that she is supportive of “promises made equals promises kept.”

Additional Comments:  Representative Biggert also stated that she felt that the Dept. of Ed. is mandating, on a federal level, policy through the leveraging of dollars.  She feels that the Dept. of Ed. has bypassed the House and Senate with RTTT and other initiatives.  In her opinion, this is not acceptable as an implementation strategy.

Senator Richard Durbin D-IL

Met with staff:  Ms. Lexi Saudargas, Legislative Asst.

NEA Directors:  Gary Miller, Jim Grimes, and Katie Kreis

1.  ESEA Reauthorization: Assessments and Accountability: What is the Senator’s view regarding assessments and accountability?

Staffer shared that Sen. Durbin understands our concerns and agrees that changes need to be made to ESEA in the areas of accountability.  The negative impact of NCLB on electives including Career and Technical Education, Art, Music, etc. was noted and acknowledged by Ms. Saudargas.  Staff Member shared that the Senator is hopeful that the ESEA will be reauthorized soon after the election and include growth models and multiple measures for teacher accountability.  It appears the Senate will follow the lead of the House.  Durbin remains open to NEA input.

2.  ESEA Reauthorization: Priority Schools/Turnaround Models
Directors shared NEA’s positions with staffer including our serious concern about the punitive options.  The conversation will continue.

3.  ESEA Reauthorization/Education Funding: Formula v. Competitive Grants
Directors shared NEA’s positions with staffer.  She shared that Sen. Durbin is trying to develop funding methods along the lines NEA proposes and understands the unfairness of competitive grants for under staffed and under resourced districts.

4.  ESEA Reauthorization; Effective Teaching
Directors shared NEA positions with Ms. Saudargas.  She shared that Sen. Durbin wants to find ways to bring outstanding teachers to low performing schools.  The role of principals and their training was underscored.

5.  Social Security: Protect Benefits
Directors shared NEA positions and our concern about the Social Security Reform Task Force and possible negative impacts on our members, particularly women who might end up living in poverty after careers in education.  Durbin understands our concerns and is supporting our position.

U. S. Department of Education Staff

NEA Directors Eric Brown, Kathi Griffin, Katie Kreis, Al Llorens, Gary Miller and Mike Orr met with Steven Means, Special Assistant to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and Kathryn Young, Special Assistant to the Office of the Assistant Secretary.

The Illinois NEA Directors were able to meet with the officials for almost an hour.

We asked them where they thought the reauthorization was going:

  • Blueprint for ESEA
  • Refining the Blueprint
  • Working to make the reauthorization bi-partisan
  • Need a quality bill
  • Election caused the reauthorization
  • The new congress will be the one to move ESEA forward
  • NCLB
  • Strengths
  • Identified achievement gaps
  • Focused on minority students and providing a quality education to all
  • Priority
  • Equity
  • Focused on the achievement gap
  • Teaching and leading
  • Build capacity in the system
  • College career standards
  • ELL need good instruction
  • Rural and poverty discretionary grants

Our discussion continued with these comments:

  • How we felt that the current ESEA had sanctions that were too punitive.
  • Accountability must be differentiated.
  • Growth model assessment is only one method of assessing student’s growth.
  • Charter schools need to be held to the same accountability as public schools.

Al Llorens will be sending them information about the I HOPE program that has been developed in Illinois, and the need for better preparation and training for school administration.  The need to show the successful traditional public school alongside charter school successes was also discussed.  Also, the Directors shared information about the NEA Priority Schools Campaign and how we are helping transform low performing schools

The Dept. of Ed. staff felt that:

  • Charter Schools had greater autonomy over schedules, staffing and budget and that Charters need to be held to the same accountability as Public Schools.
  • SIG grants are going to help many High School districts and will help address the drop out problem that we are facing.
  • Feel that TIF is improving the craft of teaching.
  • Feel that tenure should be flexible.
  • Competitive grants are/will be available to address the dropout issue, re-enrollment, and High School graduation initiatives.  This will focus on prevention and recovery

Great Lakes Center’s Conversation on the Blueprint for ESEA

Al Llorens and Kathi Griffin attended a conversation by staff of the Great Lakes Center.

The event focused on the Obama Administration’s Blueprint for ESEA and the Center’s research into the reliability of the data used by the Blueprint.  The Board received copies of the publication “The Obama Education Blueprint” and feel that this is a must read for all educators.  The report calls into question the Blueprint’s assumptions.

Great Lakes Center’s Safe Schools Press Conference and Discussion

Eric Brown attended a Great Lakes Center discussion about Safe Schools.

The press conference and discussion covered legislation and model language that states can use to encourage safe public schools for all.

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