Advocacy

August 27, 2012

Coalition Releases Letter Asking Administration to Hold Teacher Preparation Programs Accountable

Today a coalition of over 30 education reform organizations sent the attached letter urging the Obama Administration to proceed with regulations to hold teacher preparation programs accountable.

Each year, some 200,000 schools of education graduates and alternative route participants are newly placed in American classrooms. Too often, they themselves and their employers discover that they are ill-prepared to teach and as a consequence the children in their classes do not have the opportunity to learn to their utmost potential. Students from historically disadvantaged groups, who year after year are taught by the least effective teachers, are by far the most frequent victims - often with life-changing consequences - of the deficiencies in our teacher preparation and placement system.

Please read the full letter here.

List of signees include:

50Can
A+ Denver
Achievement First
Advance Illinois
Association of American Educators
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Chiefs for Change
Communities for Teaching Excellence
ConnCan
Council of Great City Schools
Democracy Builders
Democracy Prep Public Schools
Democrats for Education Reform
Education Reform Now
The Education Sector
The Education Trust
Educators 4 Excellence
EdVoice
Eli Broad
Foundation for Excellence in Education
Kevin Carey, Director of Education Policy Program,
      New America Foundation
The Mind Trust
NCLR (National Council of La Raza)
National Council on Teacher Quality
NewSchools Venture Fund
New York City Charter School Center
Relay Graduate School of Education
Step Up for Students
Students for Education Reform
StudentsFirst
Success Charter Network
Teach for America
TeachPlus
TNTP
Uncommon Schools



August 17, 2012

DFER CA joins coalition to oppose a toothless teacher evaluation system

DFER CA joined with coalition of nine education reform organizations to cosign a letter opposing the passing of AB 5 - a bill that would implement a toothless teacher evaluation system by effectively eliminating state requirements to use student standardized test scores to measure an instructor's effectiveness.

(UPDATE: On Thursday, August 16th the Senate Appropriations Committee approved AB 5. The bill also now imposes a new requirement that all aspects of teacher evaluation systems be collectively bargained, thereby changing the current law that allows school districts to design their own performance evaluations.)

Please read the attached letter here to understand more fully what is at stake.

The list of signees include:

Alliance for A Better Community
CH1LDREN NOW
Democrats for Education Reform CA
The Education Trust-West
Educators 4 Excellence
Edvoice
Families In Schools
Great Oakland Public Schools
Reading And Beyond
StudentsFirst



August 6, 2012

DFER NJ Applauds Governor Chris Christie’s Signing of TEACHNJ

Democrats for Education Reform New Jersey Applauds
Governor Chris Christie’s Signing of TEACHNJ

Signing of TEACHNJ Act a Historic Day for New Jersey

Trenton, NJ, August 6, 2012—Democrats for Education Reform New Jersey released the following statement from State Director Kathleen Nugent regarding today’s signing by Governor Chris Christie of the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act.

“Today is a historic day in New Jersey. Following unanimous passage in the Legislature, Governor Chris Christie signed TEACHNJ, a policy that will help ensure all students have an effective teacher leading their classroom — the single most important factor in student educational achievement. TEACHNJ will support the recruitment, development, and retention of the best teachers possible, a critical step for progress on education reform in New Jersey and across the country.

Bill sponsor Senator Teresa Ruiz has led 18 months of research, discussion, and consensus-building to produce a final product that will result in a reformed tenure system of which students, educators, parents, elected officials, and stakeholders statewide can be truly proud. We applaud Senator Ruiz’s tremendous leadership from the first public discussion of tenure reform in her Senate Education Committee in December 2010 to the unanimous passage this past June. We also applaud Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver for engaging in this critical issue, and recognize the strong efforts of Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, and Assemblyman Troy Singleton who also drove the process.

Democrats for Education Reform praises three key provisions within TEACHNJ, which will strengthen our schools, support our teachers and put student success above all else:

  • First, TEACHNJ will fundamentally strengthen tenure in New Jersey by tying its acquisition and retention to demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom.
  • Second, TEACHNJ will create significant professional development support for teachers and school leaders in order to ensure resources target individual needs and foster the greatest possible increased student achievement.
  • And third, TEACHNJ will dramatically reduce the time and costs for tenure challenges while ensuring due process and protecting employee rights in a responsible way.

The success of our students and of our state depends on a first-rate system of public education, and TEACHNJ will strengthen New Jersey’s ability to provide the highest quality education possible in all of our classrooms - a historic day indeed.”



June 15, 2012

Senate Appropriations Committee Votes on FY13 Approps. Bill

In April, a coalition of ed organizations released a letter advocating that the House and Senate fund key reform priorities in its appropriations for FY 2013. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted out its bill yesterday. In looking at the attached table, you will see we made progress in most areas, though funding levels are generally short of our targets. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as the Appropriations process unfolds.

Read our coalition letter from April here.

Read a Breakdown of Requests & Allocations for FY13 Labor, HHS, & Education Bill here.



May 23, 2012

Democrats for Education Reform Statement on Romney Education Speech

Mitt Romney earns an A for his efforts to present his education plan today in Washington, D.C. but on content he just barely gets a passing grade.

Long on rhetoric and short on specifics, Romney made school choice, including letting parents use public funds to pay for private school tuition, a central part of his speech. He put much less emphasis, however, on making absolutely sure that a child gets a good education wherever he or she happens to go to school.

"The type of schools that get federal funding aren't as important to us as what that federal funding is used for," said DFER Executive Director Joe Williams. "This has, and always should be, about equity and ensuring quality."

Romney seemed to be using the four assurances of Obama's landmark Race to the Top initiative as talking points. Without acknowledging Race to the Top, of course.

Romney also paid lip service to ensuring parents get better information about their children's schools, overlooking twenty years of effort at the federal, state, and local level to do exactly that. He just doesn't seem to want to require that states or school districts take any action based on that data.

"If Romney's policies passed Congress and were signed into law - the odds of which I'd put at about 100:1," said DFER Federal Policy Director Charlie Barone, "families who could afford to kick in tens of thousands of dollars on top of the feds' $3,000 per pupil allocation to send their kids to private school would do fine. The big question is, what's the plan for everyone else?"

Also, don't forget to review our recent policy briefs:
- Mitt Romney: What Kind of President Would Mitt Romney Be on Education? 
- Why Ed Reformers Must Make Sure President Obama is Re-Elected



April 24, 2012

Ed Reform Coalition Urges Congress to Support Key Programs in FY 2013 Budget & Appropriations Process

On Federal Education Funding:
Serve High-Need Populations, Drive Innovation & Boost Effectiveness


A coalition of education reform organizations released a letter today requesting strong support from Congress for key education reform programs in the FY2013 budget and appropriations process.

The group is requesting the following as a way to raise standards, close achievement gaps, improve instruction, and simulate innovation within our Nation's education system:

    • 2.5% increase in overall education funding;
    • Support for federal efforts to recruit, prepare, reward, and retain effective teachers and leaders;
    • Increased investment in high-quality public charter schools;
    • Removal of restrictions that prevent the implementation of high-quality expanded learning time programs in schools;
    • Investment in and expansion of eligibility for the Race to the Top program;
    • Continued investment in the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund.
 

By advancing these crucial education programs, we will continue to build on the progress we have made toward ensuring every child - regardless of background or ethnicity - has the ability to earn a high-quality education.

The following groups signed the letter:

Read the full letter here.




April 2, 2012

Democrats for Education Reform Applauds Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's Determination to Save Public Education


Democrats for Education Reform Applauds Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's Determination to Save Public Education

The following statement was issued today by Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform:

"Cleveland, Ohio Mayor Frank Jackson is absolutely right that bold action is needed today to save public education. In addition to offering greater opportunities for students in his city, Mayor Jackson is making a case to taxpayers that public education is worth saving and that it won't be business-as-usual under his watch. The public has long told us that it is more than willing to support public education when leaders like Mayor Jackson make a convincing case that we are making the kinds of bold changes that are necessary to improve outcomes for students. Without this kind of visionary leadership, public education in Cleveland can be expected to continue to spiral downward with little support from taxpayers."




March 29, 2012

REPUBLICAN FY 2013 BUDGET PROPOSAL

REPUBLICAN FY 2013 BUDGET PROPOSAL
DRAMATIC AND RECKLESS CUTS TO EDUCATION SPENDING


Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives began debate on its budget proposal for FY 2013, the upcoming fiscal year that begins October 1st. The debate resumes on the House floor today.

According to the White House:

• Funding for the U.S. Department of Education would be cut by more than $115 billion over a decade;

• Almost 10 million students would see their Pell Grants fall by more than $1,000 in 2014; and,

• Over the next decade, over one million students would lose support altogether.

Other analyses indicates that:

• Costs to educate more than 1.6 million students with disabilities would be shifted to states and school districts;

• As many as 200,000 students could be eliminated from the Head Start program;

• Upwards of 5 million - one in ten - U.S. students would see services reduced or eliminated because of cuts to the Title I program.

Read more here.

 

Also, read our state specific reports:

CA - PDF

CO - PDF

IL - PDF

IN - PDF

MA - PDF

MI - PDF

NJ - PDF

NY - PDF

OH - PDF

RI - PDF

WA - PDF

WI - PDF



March 16, 2012

DFER backs two crucial teacher effectiveness bills in MD

Democrats for Education Reform is backing two crucial teacher effectiveness bills in Maryland. Last week, Joe Williams, DFER's Executive Director, sent two letters to the Maryland Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee in support of SB 364, a bill introduced by former DFER Reformer of the Month Sen. Ferguson, and HB 613, the House version of the bill introduced by Rep. Rosenberg.

The legislation would offer student loan repayment to the highest performing teachers -- not just for those who attended college in-state, but also to those who attended out-of-state colleges. It would also establish a separate grant available primarily for new teachers who receive the highest performance ratings, as determined by Maryland's teacher evaluation system. 

In addition to SB 364/HB 613, DFER is backing SB 876, also introduced by Sen. Ferguson, and the House version of the bill, HB 1210, introduced by Reps. Rosenberg and Hucker, that would end the harmful practice known as Last In, First Out (LIFO). As we've seen across the country, LIFO -- which requires teacher layoffs to be based strictly on seniority rather than performance -- can lead to a decrease in the number of excellent teachers in the classroom. DFER's own Jocelyn Huber, Director of Teacher Advocacy, submitted testimony in support of both SB 876 and HB 1210.

Sen. Ferguson is putting forward bold legislation that will help Maryland attract and retain top-notch teachers. That's good news for teachers and good news for Maryland's children.

Read Joe's letters here and here; Read Jocelyn's testimony here and here.



March 14, 2012

DFER Releases Statement in Support of Governor Cuomo's Proposed School District Grants to Reward Performance Improvement and Management Efficiencies

DFER Releases Statement in Support of Governor Cuomo's Proposed School District Grants to Reward Performance Improvement and Management Efficiencies

New York, NY, March 14, 2012 - Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) today released the following statement from New York State Director Elizabeth Ling in support of Governor Cuomo's performance-based grant proposal:

"With his proposal to promote the development of new, innovative approaches in our state's public education system, Governor Cuomo continues his push to make New York's government work better for our citizens. The Governor's proposed $250 million performance-based grant program will reward school districts that demonstrate success in getting students to learn, or in finding ways to run their operations more effectively.

With this small pot of funding - only 1% of the state's $20.3 billion education budget -- the initiative will encourage new ideas and practices at the local level, which can eventually be shared across school districts to make our overall public education system stronger. This is no less than what every resident of our state deserves, and should expect, with our hard-earned tax dollars. In the current proposal, district needs will rightly be considered in determining awards.

At this time, when each dollar of education funding counts, New York cannot continue its historical approach of doing 'business as usual,' as advocated by special interests such as the Alliance for Quality Education and its primary backer, NYSUT. Despite the fact that our public schools spend more money per pupil than those in any other state, New York remains at the bottom of the pack. In fact, our state currently ranks 38th in the nation in terms of graduation rates.

With this innovative program, which could yield outsized results in the form of new ideas and progress, the Governor is showing us that we shouldn't accept the status quo. Just as we work to raise the level of student learning, we can also expect the adults in the system to do better."



March 5, 2012

DFER Applauds Effort to Reform Teacher Tenure System in NJ

Public Hearing on TEACHNJ Act a Promising First Step

On Monday, March 5th, Democrats for Education Reform New Jersey released the following statement from State Director Kathleen Nugent regarding the NJ Senate Education Committee hearing on SB1455, the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act.

"New Jersey's current tenure laws are out of date, costly, and inefficient. What's worse, they don't consider a teacher's impact on student achievement, disrespecting the teaching profession and not placing the needs of students first. Data shows that in one year the top five percent of teachers can impart a year and a half's worth of learning to their students; during the same year the weakest five percent of teachers impart only half a year's worth of material to their students. Our children deserve better.

"TEACHNJ will drastically improve the way districts and schools in New Jersey evaluate and support teachers. The Act calls for the creation of a new teacher evaluation system that will identify great teachers, support struggling teachers, and in the case of persistent failure, remove ineffective teachers. Tenure decisions and staff reductions will be based on effectiveness rather than seniority, as they have been for far too long.

"We know that the single most important factor in a child's academic success is whether or not she or he has an excellent teacher in the classroom. We applaud Senator Ruiz for her recognition of that fact and strong leadership as she takes a bold step toward improving education for all of our state's children. New Jersey - with one of the largest achievement gaps in the United States - has the opportunity now to set a national example if the legislature leads us to an improved system. This is good policy for teachers, it is good policy for children, and it is good policy for the future of our state."



February 27, 2012

DFER Applauds Tri-Caucus for Taking On Rep. Kline's Education Legislation

Earlier this afternoon the Chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (collectively known as the Tri-Caucus) and their respective education task forces sent this letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Committees and Subcommittees responsible for K-12 education legislation expressing, "significant concerns for the potentially grave consequences," of the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, introduced by Representative John Kline on February 9th.

We share their major concerns:

• Lack of bipartisan authorship and support for the two bills;
• Significantly weakened standards and accountability for schools;
• Failure to provide adequate resources to the highest need children. 

We applaud the Tri-Caucus members and their staff for standing firm against the harmful provisions in these bills. If passed, the legislation would roll back the progress our schools have made under NCLB over the last decade. And even worse, it would inhibit the gains we hope to see in the coming years. Our children and teachers deserve better.



February 15, 2012

Democrats for Education Reform Responds to Alliance for Quality Education's Opposition to Governor Cuomo's Competitive Grants Proposal

 

Contact:

Rosie Hilmer | 212.784.5698 | rhilmer@groupgordon.com
Jeremy Robinson-Leon | 212.784.5702 | jrl@groupgordon.com

Democrats for Education Reform Responds to Alliance for Quality Education's Opposition to Governor Cuomo's Competitive Grants Proposal

New York, NY, February 15, 2012 - Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) released the following statement from New York State Director Elizabeth Ling in response to the Alliance for Quality Education's (AQE) opposition to Governor Cuomo's competitive grants proposal. The grants would reward struggling school districts that demonstrate progress toward improving student achievement:

"Every year, groups funded by special interests like AQE demand more money for the education bureaucracy when they should be demanding better results for our students. Their approach of throwing money at the bureaucracy has clearly failed. That's why New York is number one in the nation on education spending and 38th on graduation rates.

"The Governor's proposal to allocate $250 million of increased education spending to competitive performance grants is exactly the type of strategic approach we need. These grants will reward the struggling schools that demonstrate that they can truly help students improve. Indeed, student outcomes should help determine funding, not the special interests.

Continue reading "Democrats for Education Reform Responds to Alliance for Quality Education's Opposition to Governor Cuomo's Competitive Grants Proposal"....



January 3, 2012

Education Reform Coalition Urges New York State to Implement its Race to the Top Pledges on Teacher Quality and Effectiveness

A coalition of education reform organizations today sent a letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to secure New York's Race to the Top funding by implementing the teacher evaluation systems to which the state committed. The coalition is proposing a back-stop measure that would require school districts to develop strong teacher evaluation plans by August 31st, 2012. Any district that has not successfully negotiated its own plan by that date would have to automatically carry out a "default" plan, to be created by the State Education Department.

With Hawaii at risk of losing its Race to the Top funding for failing to fulfill its commitments, New York has to act now to avoid a similar situation.

Please see the full letter below for more information (or click here fo the PDF).  


Education Reform Coalition Urges New York State to Implement its 
Race to the Top Pledges on Teacher Quality and Effectiveness


January 3, 2012
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We are gravely concerned about New York's credibility when it comes to living up to our promise of providing every child in the state with an outstanding classroom teacher. As you are aware, labor and management from school districts in many parts of the state have so far failed to implement key provisions of the state's Race to the Top laws. These laws passed with bi-partisan support in our state's successful attempt to win $700 million in federal funds for public schools.

It has been widely documented that one of the reasons New York beat out so many other states in President Obama's RTTT competition was the enthusiastic pledge by leaders of both education labor and management to work collaboratively to implement new teacher evaluations which would highlight the exceptional work done by effective classroom teachers. See video of New York's representatives promising to work together to implement the RTTT plan here

Like other winning states, New York promised it would implement the reforms that came with the money. Nearly two years later, however, all that the students of New York's public schools have to show for this grand bargain is foot-dragging and politicking by the same grownups who assured the federal government we were serious.

To avert a situation where New York is forced to return hundreds of millions of sorely-needed federal dollars, we urge you to consider introducing "shot clock" style measures to ensure that all school districts will fully implement the state's new teacher evaluation framework in accordance with the Race to the Top timeline.

New York cannot afford to leave federal money on the table at a time when its schools are already facing budgetary hardships. Federal education officials have made clear their intention to hold states accountable to their Race to the Top programs, as seen recently in the case of Hawaii. Hawaii's failure to secure a collective bargaining agreement with its teachers' union contributed to it being placed on "high-risk status," in danger of losing its grant and subject to extensive review and reporting requirements.

Continue reading "Education Reform Coalition Urges New York State to Implement its Race to the Top Pledges on Teacher Quality and Effectiveness "....



October 19, 2011

Civil Rights Groups, Business Groups, State Education Officials, and Education Advocates on ESEA Proposal: "We Cannot Support the Bill at this Time"

Civil Rights Groups, Business Groups, State Education Officials, and Education Advocates on ESEA Proposal: "We Cannot Support the Bill at this Time"

Groups Stress Federal Accountability

Read the joint statement below (or click here for a PDF)

Click here and here to read previous coalition letters on accountability and teacher quality and effectiveness.

"As representatives of the millions of students with disabilities, low-income students, students of color, English-language learners and migrant students who are studying in our nation's schools, both boys and girls, we cannot support the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act of 2011 at this time. The bill's weak accountability system excludes the vast majority of children we represent, and is a major barrier to our organizations' support.

We applaud the inclusion of much-needed reforms on college and career ready standards and assessments; accountability for dropout factories, more equitable funding within districts, a focus on access to high-level STEM courses for underrepresented groups, and improvements in limiting alternate assessments for students with disabilities and recognize the benefits that these provisions could yield for students.

In its current form, however, states would not have to set any measurable achievement and progress targets or even graduation rate goals. They would be required to take action to improve only a small number of low-performing schools. In schools which aren't among the states' very worst performing, huge numbers of low-achieving students will slip through the cracks.

Federal funding must be attached to firm, ambitious and unequivocal demands for higher achievement, high school graduation rates and gap closing. We know that states, school districts, and schools needed a more modern and focused law. However, we respectfully believe that the bill goes too far in providing flexibility by marginalizing the focus on the achievement of disadvantaged students.

Although we are unable to support the legislation in its current form, we hope to work with Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Enzi to address our concerns as the process moves forward."

The following groups signed the letter:

American Civil Liberties Union
Business Coalition for Student Achievement 
Chiefs for Change
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. 
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund 
Democrats for Education Reform
The Education Trust
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights* 
League of United Latin American Citizens 
MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) 
NAACP
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Council of La Raza
National Down Syndrome Society
National Urban League        
National Women's Law Center
The New Teachers Project
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Southeast Asia Research and Action Center
U.S. Chamber of Commerce


October 7, 2011

Education Reform Coalition Releases Statement of Principles on Teacher Quality and Effectiveness as Key Elements in the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Education Reform Coalition Releases Statement of Principles on Teacher Quality and Effectiveness as Key Elements in the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Over 25 advocacy, business, civil rights, and think tank organizations have joined together to release a Statement of Principles on Teacher Quality and Effectiveness that we believe should be included in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The groups states that:

 "[A] top-notch public education system...requires a structure for identifying, nurturing, and rewarding greatness in classroom teaching and school leadership. Unfortunately, most existing state and local systems are not equipped to measure excellence. All too often, these systems accept mediocrity as the fullest extent of a teacher's potential."

"We believe strongly that when ESEA is reauthorized it must compel states to create and implement more specific and finely tuned measures directed at improving the quality and effectiveness of teachers and principals and ensuring the equitable distribution of effective teachers across all schools, including those with high proportions of low-income and minority students..."

"...Evaluations, once in place, shall be used by districts to tailor professional development and other supports for teachers and shall serve as the basis for human resources decisions, including hiring, staffing, licensure, tenure, compensation, teacher assignment patterns, and dismissal"

Read the Full Letter Here


September 14, 2011

Senate Republicans' ESEA Bills: A Stunning Retreat on Two Decades of Education Reform

A group of four Republican Senators* announced today that they are set to release a package of education proposals that would amend the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While some of the specifics in these proposals have merit, the overarching effect of these policies would be to set education reform back by more than two decades. 

"In one fell swoop, Senators Alexander, Burr, Isakson, and Kirk have capitulated in the one issue area where Republicans could reasonably claim to stand with rank and file voters against the political and economic powers that be," said Charles Barone, DFER Director of Federal Policy. "By giving in to those in the education establishment for whom education reform recently has made life difficult, they have pulled the rug out from under parents and state and local advocates across the political spectrum who have used federal law to leverage unprecedented changes in their school systems."

In rolling out their proposals, these four Senate Republicans touted their evisceration of the very policies on which civil rights, business, and advocacy groups have asked them repeatedly to stay strong.

Under the Alexander-Burr--Isakson-Kirk proposal, states and districts would not be required to set goals for improving the achievement of all students or for closing achievement gaps. 

Whose bidding they are doing here is unclear. But it is surely not that of groups like the Children's Defense Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Alliance for Excellent Education, or any of the 30 other groups whom DFER joined in March in favor of new federal policies under which: "All students within a state should be held to the same college- and career-ready standards" and, "States must set annual and measurable goals for the academic growth and performance of all students and for closing achievement and graduation gaps." (emphases added). Read the entire coalition letter here.

Ironically, just yesterday, a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives showed that it's possible to place these principles over politics when it overwhelmingly defeated an amendment that would have loosened gap-closing accountability for charter schools. (Read the final 374-43 vote tally on the King amendment here).

Moreover, just this morning at a hearing on federal education accountability policies, members of the House Education Committee heard testimony from several witnesses who stressed the important role ESEA has played in their states and districts. 

According to Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Date County Public Schools, "NCLB and the federal government, through increased accountability measures, has forced us to address the glaring achievement gaps that plague many communities across this land and has forced us to address historic equity issues that were prevalent in our schools." Dr. Amy F. Sichel, Superintendent of Schools in Abington, PA, stated, "the NCLB requirement to "dig deeper" by looking at the results for disaggregated groups as well as at the results for all students has improved our practice, strengthened teaching and learning, and produced incredible achievement results in Abington."

Continue reading "Senate Republicans' ESEA Bills: A Stunning Retreat on Two Decades of Education Reform"....



September 13, 2011

DFER APPLAUDS CONGRESS FOR BIPARTISAN PASSAGE OF H.R. 2218 - THE "EMPOWERING PARENTS THROUGH QUALITY CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT"

OVERWHELMING REJECTION OF KING AMENDMENT SENDS STRONG SIGNAL ON QUALITY AND GAP-CLOSING ACCOUNTABILITY

September 13, 2011

Democrats for Education Reform applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for its success today in advancing the "Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act" (H.R. 2218). 

The overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in favor of the bill - 365 to 54 - signifies a growing consensus that high-quality public charter schools can play a powerful role in helping ensure all students have the opportunities they need to achieve to the highest levels.

We hope Congress' work today is a harbinger of future Congressional efforts to enact other urgently needed education reforms as part of its long overdue re-write of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

In H.R. 2218, Congress has delicately balanced the role of the federal government as charter school investor, cheer-leader, and standard-setter. The bill enables public charter schools to serve more students; it encourages states to develop, replicate, and expand high-quality public charter schools; and it provides strong incentives to states to improve accountability and oversight.

We also would like to congratulate Congress for decisively defeating, by a vote of 374-43, Representative Steven King's (R-IA) amendment which would have removed a key provision within the legislation that defines a high-quality charter school as one that demonstrates achievement gains with historically disadvantaged groups of students, including low-income and minority students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. With this vote, Congress has sent a strong message that achievement-gap closing is a top federal education policy priority.

Continue reading "DFER APPLAUDS CONGRESS FOR BIPARTISAN PASSAGE OF H.R. 2218 - THE "EMPOWERING PARENTS THROUGH QUALITY CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT""....



July 13, 2011

Statement By Democrats for Education Reform on H.R. 2445 - The State and Local Funding Flexibility Act

DFER_logo_JPG.jpg

July 13, 2011

The Republican majority on the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee today pushed through, on a strict party line vote, a sweeping bill that would disadvantage those students who are most in need of a high-quality education. Kudos to Democrats on the Committee, including ranking member George Miller (D-CA) and ranking subcommittee member Dale Kildee (D-MI), who worked as hard as possible to point out the weaknesses in the bill and offer constructive amendments to protect the most vulnerable schoolchildren, all of which were struck down without any serious consideration whatsoever.

We are deeply disappointed by the majority's decision to approve this deeply flawed bill, first and foremost because it would further disadvantage students in high-poverty schools by allowing states to waive the federal Title I funding formula. 

The federal government targets funds to poor children, especially those in high-poverty schools, because states and local governments do not. Even with federal aid, children from schools in disadvantaged communities have less of everything - great teachers, excellent curriculum, modern technology - when it comes to those things that matter most in giving every child an opportunity to learn to his or her highest potential. 

It is perverse and unjust that H.R. 2445 would allow states to shortchange these children, their teachers, and their schools even further especially because, as a new analysis that we have done shows, the federal government has made steady progress in remedying these inequities.

The federal Title I education law has had some notable effects over its forty-six year history. The highest poverty schools in the country - those with 75 percent or more poor students - receive 38 percent of all Title I funds. High-poverty schools that receive Title I funds get an additional $1,600 per student from the federal government. Funds for school personnel alone provide Title I schools with 10 percent more per student over and above state and local education funding.[i] 


Continue reading "Statement By Democrats for Education Reform on H.R. 2445 - The State and Local Funding Flexibility Act"....



June 22, 2011

DFER STATEMENT ON H.R. 2218 - THE "EMPOWERING PARENTS THROUGH QUALITY CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT"

H.R. 2218 - "EMPOWERING PARENTS THROUGH QUALITY CHARTER SCHOOLS" - IS A GOOD START

BUT CLOCK IS TICKING ON OTHER ESSENTIAL - AND OVERDUE - EDUCATION REFORMS

Democrats for Education Reform strongly supports the bipartisan Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 2218) that will be marked up today in the House Education and Workforce Committee. H.R. 2218 includes important provisions that allow high-quality public charter schools to serve more students and that incentivize states to expand and replicate high-performers. The bill also rightly compels states to ensure that public charter schools meet their obligations to English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and makes important improvements with regard to reporting, oversight, and accountability.

"Right now in Atlanta, thousands of public charter school parents, teachers, and administrators from across the country are sharing what they have learned and charting their course for the future," said Charles Barone, DFER Director of Federal Policy about the National Charter Schools Conference where President Clinton, who signed the first federal charter school bill into law in 1994, spoke yesterday and was given a hero's welcome. 

"The charter school movement is made-up of the most can-do, have done, group of parents, teachers, and school reformers you're ever likely to meet. Only the wrong-headed or hard-hearted would do anything other than give them as much help and support as humanly possible." 

We are disappointed that the bill lowers the authorized funding levels for federal charter schools programs from the $450 million level in current law. We do, however, appreciate that the $300 million authorization in H.R. 2218 is at least higher than the current $256 million in actual funding. While it would take a much higher increase to serve all children across the country who are on charter school waiting lists, we appreciate this small step forward and hope to work with Congress throughout the legislative process to ensure that we do as much as possible to reach our shared goal of giving all parents the first public school of their choice.

We do have some additional concerns that we believe should be addressed as the bill makes its way through the legislative process.

Continue reading "DFER STATEMENT ON H.R. 2218 - THE "EMPOWERING PARENTS THROUGH QUALITY CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT""....



March 29, 2011

Education Reform Coalition Urges State and Local Accountability for Closing Achievement and Graducation Gaps as Key Elements of ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization

Democrats for Education Reform has joined more than thirty advocacy, business, civil rights, and think tank organizations to urge Congress and the President to stay strong on key principles regarding state accountability systems in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind Act (ESEA/NCLB).

While we agree with those who believe the 9 year-old ESEA/NCLB law needs to be updated and made more flexible, we also believe strongly that the new ESEA must continue to require, in exchange for federal funding, state and local accountability for the academic achievement of all children, including and especially for racial and ethnic minorities, English language learners, children with disabilities, and children from low-income families.  

The signatories stress that such systems must require that states set annual, measurable, and ambitious goals for the academic growth and performance of all students and for closing achievement and graduation gaps between the above four sub-groups and their non-disadvantaged peers.

The following national and state education reform groups have signed on to this letter:

Achievement First
Advance Illinois
Alliance for Excellent Education
Business Roundtable
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Children's Defense Fund
Civic Builders
ConnCAN
Democracy Prep
Democrats for Education Reform
Education Equality Project
Education Reform Now
The Education Trust
EdVoice
GetSmart Schools
Hope Street Group
League of Education Voters
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
The Mind Trust
MinnCAN
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
National Council of La Raza
National Women's Law Center
New Schools Venture Fund
The New Teacher Project
Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition
RI-CAN
Rodel Foundation of Delaware
Stand for Children
Stand for Children - CO
State of Black Connecticut Alliance
Step Up for Students
StudentsFirst
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
50CAN

To see the entire letter, click: here.


March 14, 2011

Democrats for Education Reform and The Education Trust Respond to Secretary Duncan's Testimony Before the House Education and Workforce Committee.


March 9, 2011 

"Our tradition as Americans is to face our problems squarely and address them forthrightly. Going forward, ESEA policy should hold with that tradition. And that means recognizing that when the problem is that our children aren't learning enough, the correct response is to accept responsibility and teach them better."


To read the full letter, click here.


March 2, 2011

DFER applauds release of statement of principles on ESEA reauthorization by Moderate Democrats' Working Group


Democrats for Education Reform joined 18 other national and state education reform groups today to applaud the leadership and vision demonstrated by the statement of ESEA principals released by Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE), Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). DFER shares the Senators' goal of a bipartisan reauthorization of ESEA that focuses on human capital and identifying our Nation's most effective teachers.

Read the letter here: 

Dear Senators.pdf

Signees include:

Center for American Progress Action Fund
The Chalkboard Project
Children's Defense Fund
ConnCan
Democrats for Education Reform
Education Equality Project
Education Reform Now
The Education Trust
Get Smart Schools
Hope Street Group
Mississippi First
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
National Council of La Raza
The New Teacher Project
Rodel Foundation of Delaware
Stand for Children - Colorado
Success Charter Network
Teach Plus
50CAN (50-State Campaign for Achievement Now)


November 17, 2010

Letter of Support - 2011 Appropriations for 21st Century Community Learning Center Program

In September the National Center for Time & Learning along with 17 other groups sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee to thank Chairman Inouye (D-HI) and Chairman Harkin (D-IA), along with the entirety of the committee, for increasing funding and providing more local control over the 21st CCLC program for FY11.

Download the PDF to read a copy of the letter:

Letter of Support for FY2011 Appropriations CCLC Proposal Senate.pdf



July 20, 2010

Twenty education reform groups conveyed their thanks to Senator Bayh, Senator Durbin and 14 others for their steadfast leadership in rejecting the false choice between jobs and reform.

Dear Senator,

We are writing to thank you for standing up for students and demonstrating steadfast resolve against funding an education jobs bill through cuts to vital education reform initiatives like Race to the Top, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and the Charter Schools Program.

Some education interest groups have argued that President Obama's initiatives to drive innovation in, and boost the effectiveness of, state and local education programs should be suspended until the economy improves. We strongly reject that argument.

In a time of resource scarcity, it is more important than ever to ensure that education spending at all levels of government is used as efficiently and effectively as possible. Providing students with a first-rate education must be just as integral a part of any plan for our nation's economic recovery as shoring up state and local budgets.

We ask that you maintain your resolve in the coming weeks if and when the House supplemental appropriations bill containing the $800 million in cuts to education reform is brought up in the Senate, or if similar initiatives are advanced on other legislation. Your continued vision, resolve, and leadership are greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Achievement First

Advance Illinois

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Civic Builders

ConnCAN

Democrats for Education Reform

Education Equality Project

Education Reform Now

The Education Trust

Foundation for Excellence in Education

Hope Street Group

Katherine B. Bradley

KIPP

The Mind Trust

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

National Council of La Raza

The New Teacher Project

NewSchools Venture Fund

Rodel Foundation of Delaware

SMART Schools

Stand for Children


Thank You - Senator Bayh.pdf


Letter to Chairman Daniel K. Inouye signed by 16 Senators including Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL): Letter to Inouye.7.20.10.pdf



July 20, 2010

16 Senators send letter to Chairman Daniel K. Inouye rejecting the false choice between jobs and reform.

16 Senators including Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter to Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Daniel K. Inouye, rejecting the false choice between jobs and reform.

Letter to Inouye.7.20.10.pdf



July 1, 2010

Oppose Obey Amendment: Sustain Education Reform, Keep Promises to States and Communities

Dear Congressman:

 

We are writing to urge you to vote against an amendment being offered today to the supplemental appropriations bill by Congressman David Obey to fund a new "Edujobs" program by using offsets from key Obama Administration reform initiatives that are working in our states and communities, with strong support from elected officials of both political parties and a broad spectrum of stakeholders,to affect real changes in school systems that are benefiting students and offering new hope to parents.

 

The amendment as constructed is unnecessarily divisive and, in the final analysis, counterproductive. Members of Congress should not be forced to have a vote for teacher jobs and salaries yoked to cuts to reforms that will ensure that precious educational resources are spent to give all children - regardless of race, country of origin, or zip code - a high quality education that prepares them for college and the workforce.

 

Yesterday, Assistant Secretary of Education, Peter Cunningham, said "If Congress is determined to find offsets, we will help them do that, but these are not the right ones." We urge Congressman Obey and the Congressional Leadership to go back to the drawing board and work with the Administration on a bill that saves jobs without gutting equally important education reforms.

 

The Obey amendment would cut:

- $500 million from Race to the Top, bringing the total available for state applications already submitted down from $3.4 billion to $2.9 billion;

 

- $100 million from the Charter Schools Program; and,

- $200 million from the Teacher Incentive Fund.

The federal government must keep its promise to states like New York, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Colorado, that each undertook bold education reforms with the understanding that they would qualify for the resources needed to pay for them. It must think of the 6,000 jobs in the public charter school sector alone that could be at risk if Congress makes the 40% cut to charter schools that the Obey amendment entails.

The American public is looking for leadership on education, and collaboration between elected officials that reflects and supports the extraordinary work stakeholders are undertaking together at the state and local level.  They are certainly not looking for a surprise turnaround of federal policy that undermines their efforts.

Please vote against the Obey amendment and work with your colleagues across ideological and party lines to craft an alternative that does not stop real and important changes in our nation's public school system just as they are beginning to show promise in improving the quality in education for ALL our nation's schoolchildren, especially those who historically have been so woefully and unjustly shortchanged.

Sincerely, 

Achievement First

Advance Illinois

City Peace Foundation, Sondra Samuels, President

Civic Builders

Chalkboard Project, Sue Hildick, President

ConnCAN

Democrats for Education Reform

Education Equality Project

Education Reform Now

The Education Trust

The Education Trust West, Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director

Foundation for Excellence in Education

Harlem Success Academy

Hope Street Group

KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program)

KIPP Minnesota, Suzanne Tacheny Kubach, PhD, Board Chair and Mark Chronister, 

     Vice Chair

League of Education Voters

Mass Insight Education

The Mind Trust

National Alliance of Public Charter Schools

National Council of La Raza (NCLR)

New Schools Venture Fund, Ted Mitchell, CEO

The New Teacher Project

Rodel Foundation of Delaware

Stand for Children

Texas Institute for Education Reform



June 30, 2010

Oppose Obey Amendment Cuts to Obama Reform Initiatives


Oppose Reform-Gutting Obey Amendment to Supplemental Appropriations Bill

Dear Friend of Education Reform:

Last night Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee David Obey (D-WI) filed an amendment to a supplemental appropriations bill to cut funding for key Obama education reform initiatives to pay for an "education jobs" initiative. The amendment will likely be voted on today or tomorrow.

We need your help in getting members to oppose this divisive attempt to pit teacher jobs and salaries against reform efforts that will make sure precious educational resources are spent in a way that ensures all children - regardless of race, country of origin, or zip code - receive a high quality education that prepares them for college and the workforce.

The Obey amendment would cut:

- $500 million from Race to the Top, bringing the total available for state applications already submitted down from $3.4 billion to $2.9 billion;

- $100 million from the Charter Schools Program; and,

- $200 million from the Teacher Incentive Fund.

Call your Member of Congress via the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and tell them you oppose the Obey amendment, and that your are deeply disappointed that House leaders may put members in the position of having either to vote against teacher jobs and salaries or against the quality of education and public school choice options available to schoolchildren.

Tell them that the federal government must keep its promise to states like New York, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, and Colorado, that undertook bold education reforms with the understanding that they would get the resources needed to pay for them.

Tell them that you oppose this kind of inside-the-beltway gamesmanship that is out of touch with the collaborative efforts underway in your states and communities between parents, advocates, and other stakeholders, including teachers, to improve the quality of our nation's public schools.

 




May 6, 2010

On Federal Education Funding: Save Jobs, Serve High-Need Populations, Drive Innovation & Boost Effectiveness

Democrats for Education Reform joined other national and state education reform groups today in urging Congress to pass legislation to save teacher jobs, target funds on high-need populations, drive innovation, and boost the effectiveness of federal, state, and local education programs.

To read the letter, click: Education Funding - Jobs, Targeting, Innovation, and Reform.pdf

Signees:

Center for American Progress Action Fund

ConnCan

Democrats for Education Reform

Education Equality Project

Education Reform Now

Hope Street Group

Mississippi First

National Alliance of Public Charter Schools

National Council of La Raza

NewSchools Venture Fund

The New Teacher Project

Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, Kentucky

Rodel Foundation of Delaware


April 19, 2010

ESEA: Accountability, Teacher Quality, and Equity

On March 3rd, Democrats for Education Reform joined a coalition of 18 advocacy, civil rights, and policy study organizations who submitted a set of recommendations to the President and Congress regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
 
This statement of principles makes it clear that there is broad support for a new ESEA that invests in fundamental education reform, promotes innovation, builds human capital, and continues to holds schools accountable for results. Part and parcel of this effort must be decisive action to fundamentally restructure schools and school systems that are chronically low-performing.

To read the letter, click here:

Statement of Principles.ESEA Reauthorization.pdf