Family Engagement and the Renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

LBJ_ESEA-signingToday’s guest post is by Jacki Ball, the Director of Government Affairs for National PTA®.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which remains the most comprehensive federal education legislation in the United States today and is a key legislative priority of National PTA. ESEA was first enacted as part of President Johnson’s “war on poverty.” The federal role in education has historically been focused on assisting states to educate disadvantaged populations and special needs children.

The bill has been reauthorized, or renewed several times with the most recent reauthorization occurring in 2002, in which they named the bill, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The ESEA-NCLB in its current form has been due for an update since 2007. Unfortunately, Congress has not been able to come to an agreement on a revised version of the bill for the last eight years. However, members of Congress are currently working on an update to the law. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed a bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) out of its committee along a party-line vote with all Republicans voting in favor of the bill and all the Democrats opposed.

The Democrats consistently raised objections about the lack of a bipartisan process, hearings on the bill, and inclusion of protections for high-need students in the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). Republicans argue that H.R. 5 has been around for years (it was introduced and passed the House floor in the last Congress) and that the bill provides more freedom and flexibility for states and districts to meet the educational needs of students.

On the Senate side, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) are in negotiations to produce a bipartisan bill that can pass out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and get to the Senate floor in early spring. Recent reports indicate that the two have made significant progress and that the Senate education committee may hold a mark-up on an ESEA proposal the week of April 13. This is promising news since the bill in the House of Representatives has stalled and has not received a vote on the House floor as of late March.

National PTA follows many issues related to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), however, its number one priority is Title I and family engagement provisions. Title I of the ESEA supports schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families. To qualify as a Title I school, a school typically has around 40% or more of its students that come from families that qualify under the United States Census’ definitions as low-income, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

ESEA-Watch-small1Under current law, school districts must allocate 1% of their Title I funding for family engagement and states must embed National PTA Standards for Family-School Partnerships in their Title I plans. National PTA would like to see ESEA updated to include an increase in the allocation of Title I funding for family engagement from 1% to 2%. Additionally, we would like to see school districts use National PTA Standards for Family-School Partnerships at the local level to increase effective parental engagement and improve student    outcomes.

But we need your help! National PTA’s goal is to get provisions of the Family Engagement in Education Act (S. 622/H.R. 1194) into a new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In order to so, we need you to Take Action and tell your Member of Congress to cosponsor the bill! The bill would support effective family engagement at all levels of government by increasing the amount of Title I funds that are allocated to family engagement. Additionally, the bill would ensure that states have the capacity to support effective family engagement for all students and families and provide localized services to high-need school communities to promote student achievement and school improvement.