Monday, November 30, 2015

Revised ESEA - Please Let Our Congressional Reps Know Your Concerns

The vote on the next version of No Child Left Behind is coming up for a vote this week, first in the Senate and then, next week, in the House.  

There are several issues that have come to my attention via Diane Ravitch and the Network of Public Education.

Here's a link to all the Washington State representatives and senators.  E-mail is great but there is also great value in calling their offices and registering your vote.  (I interned for an Arizona senator once and my job was taking phone calls from constituents on issues of the day.  They registered every single call.)

However you do it, PLEASE contact our congressional reps on this vote.  When you do, please note to them that this is a much better bill than the original.
First, there is an issue for Special Education.
Special education advocate Bev Johns has written here warning about the impact of Social Impact Bonds on special education services.

What are Social Impact Bonds (SIBs)?

Also known as Pay for Success programs in which Wall Street investors, often using funding from private philanthropies, invest in social programs which once were funded directly by the government. The aim is to reduce government costs by offering profits to Wall Street.
The profit increases for investors when schools reduce the number of students who receive special education services:

When it comes to special education programs and SIBs, success is quantified by counting how many special needs students are moved out of the programs and how many have services removed or denied.
The Senate reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (ESEA) includes an amendment by Senator Orrin Hatch that rewards investors in bonds if schools reduce special education enrollments.

We need to let every national organization that we belong to know that we oppose the concept of paying Goldman Sachs and other investors for every child that avoids special education (what Sen. Hatch calls Pay-for-Success).
 From the Network of Public Education action alert:
Unfortunately the bill continues the annual mandate for testing in grades 3-8, and a waiver will still be needed if states want to give alternative assessments to more than one percent of their students with disabilities and English Language Learners after one year.
In addition, there are some new provisions that we are very concerned about:
  • The bill appears to require that “academic standards” including proficiency rates and growth based on state test scores, must count for at least 51% of any state’s accountability system. Some observers say that the bill would allow the Secretary of Education to determine the exact percentage of each factor in a state accountability system. This is not acceptable. Every state should be allowed to decide on its own system, including what percent to give standardized tests.
  • The bill would also allow states to use Title II funds, now meant for class size reduction and teacher quality initiatives, for Social Impact bonds, which amount to another profiteering scheme for Wall Street to loot our public schools. Recently, the New York Times reported on how Goldman Sachs helped fund a preschool program in Utah with Social Impact bonds. Goldman Sachs will now make hundreds of thousands of dollars, based on a flawed study that purported to show that 99 percent of these students will not require special education services – a far higher percent than any previous study. We vehemently oppose the inclusion of this provision in ESEA. If preschool is worth funding, and we believe that it is, it should be paid for by public funds and not provide another way for Wall Street profiteers to drain resources from our public schools.