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This Week’s ESSA News: Senators Push for Analysis on Early College High Schools, an Ohio Argument to Boost Federal Education Funding, New Spending Data Sparks Debates & More

By Erika Ross | February 19, 2020

This update on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the education plans now being implemented by states and school districts is produced in partnership with ESSA Essentials, an ongoing series from the Collaborative for Student Success. It’s an offshoot of their ESSA Advance newsletter, which you can sign up for here! (See our recent ESSA updates from previous weeks right here.)

In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, several members of the U.S. Senate are urging the Department of Education to expand analysis of federal K-12 education spending to “include dual and concurrent enrollment programs and early college high schools.” The group of lawmakers urges Secretary DeVos and her agency to “look at utilization, outcomes and best practices of college in high school programs” and to “examine how school districts are using federal funding opportunities created by the Every Student Succeeds Act to support increasing student access to high-quality programs that promote academic success.”

“ESSA recognizes the important roles that these college in high school programs can play in preparing students — particularly those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds — for success in college and career,” the senators write. “Through these programs, high school students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college, earning transcripted, transferable college credit often at reduced or no tuition cost.”

The bipartisan group of senators say they “encourage the Department to examine how states and districts are leveraging and coordinating federal resources across funding streams for which dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school are allowable uses to support a comprehensive network of high-quality programs.” They add: “Namely, ESSA established a series of reporting requirements, state and local plan components, and allowable uses of funds all aimed at encouraging states and local education agencies to prioritize dual and concurrent enrollment as a key strategy for successfully preparing students for college and the workforce.” Read the full letter.

Here are the week’s other top headlines for how states are implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act:

As school spending data sparks debate in some states, a renewed focus on helping all families access — and understand — the information

A key goal of ESSA is to “spark a richer dialogue between parents, administrators and school board members.” Now, as states release school spending data, concerns are being raised in communities across the nation about the “accessibility and accuracy of the data, states’ limited publicity about the data’s release, and whether states will meet a looming deadline to have the data published before the end of this school year.”

In three states — Kansas, Alabama  and Wisconsin — the release of such data has sparked debate about the use of funds, high per-student spending, and funding inequities between suburban and rural districts, respectively. To date, 26 states have published school spending data.

Why Ohio and other states need more federal funding for public schools

In an op-ed for the Daily Jeff, Amy Kissinger talks about the need to increase federal funding for public schools in Ohio and across the nation. As part of the National School Board Association, Kissinger recently met with elected leaders in Washington, D.C., “to advocate for the more than 50 million students who attend public schools in America.”

The group’s visit comes on the heels of a “$450 million increase for Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title I, which supports schools with large numbers of low-income families.” However, Kissinger notes that the federal dollars do not fully fund ESSA Title I services and vital education grants programs, and calls on legislators to continue to increase funding for “important programs that help our students succeed.”

Senator Alexander’s middle-of-the-road approach to impeachment … and ESSA

A recent Education Week blog post drew parallels between Senator Lamar Alexander’s “handling of the impeachment inquiry and his recent approach to education policy,” including as a key architect of ESSA.

During the former, the senator struck a middle ground — arguing that although the president’s actions were inappropriate, they did not warrant removal. This is similar to the approach the senator took while working to pass ESSA, particularly regarding “how to balance competing views about the standardized exams mandated by” ESSA’s predecessor. Ultimately, Alexander supported preserving these tests under ESSA “but otherwise restricting the federal government’s powers over” how those tests could be used.

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