Education: The 21st Century Civil Rights Issue

By John Monteleone, Fellow, National Institute for Latino School Leaders, NCLR

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I often find that within educational circles, the word equity can be controversial and confusing. Those who are more affluent and privileged often become squeamish, while those from economically-disadvantaged districts become increasingly engaged. However, while this conversation can be difficult to have with different audiences, the difficulty only emphasizes its importance. Pursuing equity in education can prevent some districts from falling into the achievement gap—and help prevent deeper inequality from taking root in our society.

In a country that prides itself on the mantra that “We The People” are treated fair and just, providing every child with an equitable education should not be controversial.

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Janet Murguía Testimony at ESSA Hearing: Full Remarks

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Today our President and CEO, Janet Murguía, testified before the before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions’ hearing, “ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders” to provide the civil rights perspective. Below are the remarks as prepared for delivery:

“NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, an American institution recognized in the book Forces for Good as one of the leading nonprofits in the nation. We represent over 250 Affiliates—local, community-based organizations in 41 states and the District of Columbia—that provide education, health, housing, workforce development, and other services to millions of Americans and immigrants annually. Many of these Affiliates operate as charter schools, provide early education, or offer after-school programming or family literacy services. Their experiences inform NCLR’s federal agenda.

“NCLR was proud to support the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act as a much needed update to our federal education law. Notably, for the first time, English language proficiency will be included in states’ accountability systems. However, passage was just the first step. It is critical that ESSA be implemented in a manner consistent with the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure its promise for all students.

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Why We Support the Reauthorization of ESEA

The House of Representatives is set to pass a bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It has been more than a decade since the law was reauthorized under the new name, No Child Left Behind. The bill under consideration includes several provisions that have been on our priority list. Below is a letter we sent to Capitol Hill today, which outlines our support.

ESEA Conference Report Letter

Weekly Washington Outlook — November 30, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will vote on legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • 611– Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act (Sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 3490– Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act (Sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe / Judiciary Committee)
  • R. 3279– Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins / Judiciary Committee)
  • R. 1755– To amend title 36, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the congressional charter of the Disabled American Veterans, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller / Judiciary Committee)
  • R. 2288– To remove the use restrictions on certain land transferred to Rockingham County, Virginia, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte / Natural Resources Committee)
  • R. 1541– PRISM Act (Sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva / Natural Resources Committee)
  • R. 2212– To take certain Federal lands located in Lassen County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Susanville Indian Rancheria, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Doug LaMalfa / Natural Resources Committee)
  • R. 2270– Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act (Sponsored by Rep. Denny Heck / Natural Resources Committee)
  • 1170– Breast Cancer Research Stamp Reauthorization Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Dianne Feinstein / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

The balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

  • R. 8– North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • J. Res. 23– Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • J. Res 24– Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito / Energy and Commerce Committee)

In addition, the House is expected to vote on the conference report to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and another conference report to reauthorize surface transportation programs.

Senate:

The Senate will vote on Monday evening on an executive nomination. Later in the week, the Senate may debate a revised version of House-passed budget reconciliation legislation.

White House:

While the White House did not release an official schedule this week, the president will be in Paris attending a climate summit.

Also this Week:

Education – The House will vote on a bipartisan conference report to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last rewritten as No Child Left Behind) this week. The Senate is expected to follow next week. While the language, released Monday, clearly reflects a compromise, the provisions for English Learners are substantial. For the first time, ELs will be included in a state’s accountability system. The report also establishes standard entry and exit procedures for ELs, includes strong parent notification language, and creates new reporting requirements on ELs with disabilities and long-term ELs. That said, the accountability language delegates much to states and districts to ensure groups of students are meeting challenging goals.

Tax – The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee this week will continue their negotiations over making certain business tax credits and expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit permanent. These credits were enhanced in 2009 as part of the stimulus, but these enhancements expire in 2017. An agreement could be reached in the coming days. However, it has been reported that any possible deal would include a number of “program integrity” provisions targeted at immigrants. Of the options mentioned in news accounts, one would require those applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to appear in-person; another would prohibit future DAPA recipients from retroactively amending their tax returns for up to three years to claim the EITC.

Appropriations – There are just two weeks left to pass a spending bill to fund the government beyond December 11. This week, Appropriators are expected to receive their 302(b) allocations, the topline amount for each agency. While the Administration has remained firmly opposed to all controversial policy riders, some lawmakers may still seek language to undermine Dodd-Frank, curtail refugee resettlement, and others.

Puerto Rico – On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Puerto Rico’s financial situation. Puerto Rico’s Governor and the Resident Commissioner are both scheduled to testify. While the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over bankruptcy reform, Chairman Grassley has been reluctant to move forward without other fiscal and regulatory reforms on the Commonwealth. Also this week, Puerto Rican members of Congress including Reps. Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Serrano (D-N.Y.) are assisting in coordination of a Puerto Rico Day of Action on December 2. Members and advocates will ask Congress to act to help address Puerto Rico’s financial and humanitarian situation.

Health – The Senate may take-up a revised version of House-passed budget reconciliation legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, originally including the employer and individual mandates. However, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that these provisions could not be altered in the reconciliation process, as they do not relate to revenue or spending. Under budget reconciliation, the Senate only needs a majority rather than sixty votes to move forward. In addition to the ACA provisions, the legislation would also block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding.

Immigration – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, “Oversight of the Administration’s Criminal Alien Removal Policies.” Elsewhere, it is possible the Senate may move in the coming days to take up legislation related to refugees. Additional House hearings on this subject are also likely.

Accountability Must be Included in Education Bill to Fulfill its Promise to Students

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After more than a decade, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act appears to be headed for reauthorization. The last time the civil rights law was rewritten was 2002, when it was rebranded as “No Child Left Behind.” The current rewrite is in the final stages as House members have been named to serve on the bill’s conference committee, which will reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions before putting it up for a vote in each body.

This week, NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, hosted a conference call for Affiliates and NCLR supporters with the Department of Education’s Delegated Deputy Secretary, Dr. John B. King, Jr.

You can listen to the entire call below.

 
The following are prepared remarks Janet Murguía made during the live call:

No Child Left Behind or NCLB is of immense importance to the Latino community since our children make up not only the largest ethnic majority in the American classroom but also one of every four students in this country. NCLB was enacted more than a decade ago during the Bush Administration and it marked the first time ever that the federal government was required to hold schools accountable for the way they were educating English learners, many of whom are Hispanic. This is the reason why NCLR supported this far from perfect legislation. It is long past time for Congress to update and help correct some of the flaws and the unintended consequences of NCLB.

This is a message Congress has received since the reauthorization of the bill is one of the few pieces of major legislation to be passed this year by both the House and Senate. This week we expect the House and the Senate to appoint conferees, the last step before the legislation is sent to the President.

NCLR has been working closely and on a bipartisan basis with Senator Patty Murray (D–Wash.) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R–Tenn.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D–Va.) and Rep. John Kline (R–Minn.) on the house side, to strengthen the provisions related to English learners in the bill and we are now working to make sure these provisions—which include requiring that English learners be included in a state’s accountability system and support for English learners so that they can achieve academic success—stay in the final version of the bill. It is our understanding that just this weekend an agreement on the framework for this has been reached. While we do not have the details, we hope to get more information in the coming days.

As the process moves forward, provisions must ensure that states are able to intervene if a school is found to be failing its Latino and English learner students. Without this provision in the final bill, it is unclear whether the ESEA can fulfill its promise to our students. In short, a strong ESEA that protects our nation’s most vulnerable students is vital to ensuring that states and school districts are living up to their obligation to provide a quality education to all on an equal basis, regardless of who they are or where they live. Giving all children the best education possible so that they can achieve and contribute as much as possible is something all Americans will benefit from and should get behind on.

We are monitoring the process closely and are working to ensure that a final bill reflects the priorities of the Latino community. Follow @NCLR for the latest updates.

For more information on NCLR’s education work, visit nclr.org/issues/education