Let the budget bickering begin - The First Five Years Fund - Short term solutions just aren't cutting it

October 18, 2013 | Politico |  Link to article

LET THE BUDGET BICKERING BEGIN: The education world breathed a collective sigh of relief when the 16-day government shutdown came to an end - but only for a moment. The budget conference committee began talks in what will prove a monumental task: to find common spending ground in Congress. Education groups hope lawmakers will find a way to avoid a second round of sequester cuts, which they have pronounced far more damaging to education spending than a shutdown, but they aren't optimistic. The supercommittee failed to reach compromise in 2011, eventually leading to the first round of sequester cuts. POLITICO's Ginger Gibson: http://politi.co/19U1YsV

- The First Five Years Fund applauded the budget deal, but executive director Kris Perry said "throughout the long budget discussions and extensions, "we have lost sight of the need to invest in the development of young children that will help us reduce spending, lower deficits and increase productivity."

- Short term solutions just aren't cutting it, said Thomas Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association: "Long-term budget solutions are needed as Congress continues to pass budgets built on continuing resolutions with education programs funded at the same levels as the year before or cut because of sequestration."

- Meanwhile, the Education Department reopened its doors: Among the tasks waiting for returning employees - all of them, or almost, returned on Thursday to a pile of email and voicemail messages - are 225 Race to the Top-district applications, a spokesman said. The deadline was Oct. 3, meaning the department is about two weeks behind on processing, although the applications were still received and prepared for review. There's no tally yet of how many Race to the Top-early learning challenge grant applications, due Wednesday, came in. Websites came back online too, including the National Center for Education Statistics and the What Works Clearinghouse.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan roamed the halls greeting employees returning to work - [http://bit.ly/H69PGP] and [http://bit.ly/H3yflc] - and issued a letter to staff welcoming back the department "family." http://politico.pro/1fGksPG "Everyone is excited and happy to be working again for the American people," spokesman Cameron French told Morning Education, but otherwise things at the department's headquarters are mostly back to normal.

- Impact Aid school districts still aren't out of the woods. Some of the districts have requested early payments and the Education Department is working to prioritize those requests based on need. But the Office of Management and Budget has to authorize appropriations for those requests, which could take up to two weeks - time that some districts don't have. A "handful" of districts may have to turn to banks while the department processes backed up requests. The STAR School in rural Flagstaff, Ariz. is one of them. The school sits on Native American land and serves about 130 children, relying on federal Impact Aid for about 35 percent of its $1.7 million annual operating budget. It only has about $80,000 in the bank, which will keep the school open for about another two weeks. My story for Pros: http://politico.pro/1753kkm

- Now, about that sequester ... (h/t @edvotes) http://bit.ly/1gP7w9r

GOOD MORNING AND WELCOME TO FRIDAY! And welcome to Morning Education. I'm your substitute teacher this morning (I KNOW. I'm sorry. I've always wanted to say it. Just this once...) and I can definitively say that if Vice President Joe Biden ever personally delivered [http://bit.ly/H48Yrg] muffins to my office, my head would explode. Send your best Bidenisms, story ideas, tips and whatever to cemma@politico.com or follow me at @caitlinzemma for education news and continued pictures and updates on what my family's cat is doing [http://bit.ly/H0zC3R]. Be sure to follow us at @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

E-RATE COMMENTS: Filers get more time to turn in their comments. Reply comments on the proposal to revamp the Internet subsidy program for schools and libraries were due Wednesday, but the shutdown has pushed the due date forward. The Federal Communications Commission is suspending all filing deadlines that occurred during the shutdown or that will occur on or before this coming Monday. The FCC said it will issue further guidance on revised filing deadlines soon. http://fcc.us/15Mh8Nn

- Grateful tweeter Maria Worthen, vice president of policy for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning: "Thank you @FCC, for sparing us an #ERate reply comment all nighter. Deadline suspended until further notice." http://bit.ly/1aSLH3V

TEACHING THE TEACHERS - Judging from the standing-room-only crowd that packed a strategy session at Jeb Bush's annual ed reform summit, ratcheting up the rigor at teacher preparation programs is a very hot topic. Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, served up plenty of grim news about the quality of training at education colleges today. Some colleges, she said, have higher academic standards for their football teams than for their education majors. About 70 percent of programs that train elementary school teachers don't require the aspiring educators to take a single college-level science course. And in what Walsh called a clear case of "malpractice," very few programs offer research-based instruction in how to teach reading. The council released controversial ratings of 600 teacher prep programs earlier this year and is gearing up for a second round; fresh ratings on 800-plus programs will come out in June.

The council has also been working on a searchable database that allows school district HR departments to check the ratings of local ed schools as they sort through resumes of job applicants. "It's very important that we penetrate the marketplace and make sure these ratings matter," Walsh said. Her seminar was jammed with legislators from across the country, who were avidly jotting notes. Other popular panels offered tips on implementing voucher programs, letting kids take core courses online and selling the ed reform message. That last task was summed up by Peter Cunningham, a former spokesman for Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who warned avid reformers that public perception matters - or as he put it, "Frame or be framed." Cunningham added: "Policy is a scalpel. Message is a sledgehammer. It needs to be clear....It needs to be strong... It needs to hit you over the head." The summit, hosted by Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, is sponsored by an array of foundations and corporations, including Scholastic, Amplify, K12 Inc., Target and ExxonMobil.

- Day 2 of the summit features Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who will deliver the keynote speech at 12:30 p.m. Watch live: http://bit.ly/17WMjqb. Summit agenda: http://bit.ly/14YkKMf. Pro Education's Stephanie Simon is on site tracking the news.

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OKLAHOMA GRADE PLAN MAY JEOPARDIZE WAIVER: A study by University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University researchers says the state's A-F grading system conceals the performance of poor and minority students, which could place the state's waiver from No Child Left Behind in trouble. The waiver requires that the state's accountability system accurately measure student achievement gaps. Researchers looked at more than 15,000 student test scores from 63 schools and found that the grade averages of high-scoring students from wealthy families "give the appearance of school effectiveness for all," while the low test performance of low-income and minority children got buried. The study: http://bit.ly/1fGoCHl. And more from the Tulsa World: http://bit.ly/1aRiXZj.

- State Superintendent Janet Barresi blasted the study: "This analysis appears built on the wrong and dangerous presumption that minority and poverty-stricken children cannot learn. I reject that notion. Equally disturbing is that the researchers' conclusion belies the importance and effectiveness of teachers."

- So did Robert Sommers, Oklahoma's Secretary of Education and Workforce, in a written response to researchers: "I was alarmed by your contention that schools have little influence on student success. I find your report terribly flawed at its core. You suggest that no more than 30 percent of the variation in student achievement is due to a school and its teachers. We reject this notion outright." http://politico.pro/15MvHRa

WATER RULE HASN'T SATURATED SCHOOLS: The inclusion of a rule that provides free drinking water to children in schools hasn't gone far enough, advocates say. The rule is part of a complex set of requirements contained in the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The healthier meals, which involved a major overhaul of the National School Lunch Program, have gotten all the attention while the water has largely been ignored. "Many schools said, ‘We fixed the water fountain by the door of the cafeteria, so we're done.' No, you're not done if you actually want kids to drink the water," said Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy at Food Research and Action Center, a national anti-hunger organization. Pro Agriculture's Tarini Parti has the story: http://politico.pro/15NMXWi

RAVITCH, RANDI TALK PUBLIC EDUCATION: Diane Ravitch, author of bestseller "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools," and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten will speak at a forum today hosted by the Economic Policy Institute and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. Ravitch, Weingarten and Broader Bolder national coordinator Elaine Weiss will discuss the state of U.S. public education, problems with federal programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, and Ravitch's plan for public education. Your Morning Education author will be there when the event starts at 1 p.m. Watch the livestream: http://bit.ly/1as8RfZ

MOST STUDENTS WORKING FULL-TIME ALSO TAKE OUT LOANS: And students who borrow to pay for college make less in their first year after college than their counterparts who didn't, according to a new briefing from the National Center for Education Statistics (Welcome back, edu-data!). Using data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, it compares debt levels for the class of 2009 with counterparts from 2001 and 1994. Students with more debt were more likely to live with their parents in 2009. The first-time debt levels correlated with moves back home after graduation, researchers found. The study: http://1.usa.gov/GSE2JC

TRY TAKING THE TEST: Students 4 Our Schools and the Colorado Student Power Alliance say standardized tests are culturally biased and an inaccurate measure of student achievement and teacher effectiveness. On Saturday, the groups are hosting an event in Denver in which 100 adults have been asked to take a standardized test comparable to those administered in public schools, so they can see how they would score. Colorado Department of Education officials and elected policymakers have been invited. http://bit.ly/17PsEUU

REPORT ROLL CALL: Coaching college students individually boosts student persistence and completion http://bit.ly/H3xKYr; the National Center for Education Statistics follows up on the education expectations of a group of high school students http://1.usa.gov/19U1Yay; and The Center for Law and Social Policy has two new fact sheets based on the last Head Start Program Information Report http://bit.ly/19btQ8Y

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