Full Senate ESEA Draft Bill Analysis


Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a new, bipartisan, Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) proposal, entitled the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”
The bill checks in at just over 600 pages; our analysis found the bill includes the following key features for the consideration of music and arts advocates:

  • “Arts” are listed as core, as is “music,” separately, in the legislation’s new definition of “core academic subjects”
  • Title I portability (allows funds previously dedicated to schools in areas with high poverty rates and high-needs students, to “follow a child,” to their specific public school) proposed in Republican House legislation is not included
  • “Highly qualified teacher” definition (education, certification, competence) is eliminated, with the goal of states developing their own such definitions
  • “Maintenance of effort” (designed to ensure funding to the neediest of schools) is retained, with increased flexibility on how to meet requirements, holding school districts harmless for the first time that they do not reach the 90% maintenance level
  • As part of state reporting requirements, status and plans to offer “well-rounded” education (which can include music and the arts) must be included
  • Title I funds for music and arts education are still an allowable use, but no additional clarifying language has been added since NCLB
  • The U.S. Secretary of Education is explicitly limited from a range of activities used to incentivize and penalize states, as well as from removing the controversial federal funding system tied to Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) results and Common Core acceptance, among others
  • The U.S. Secretary of Education is also banned from determining how states evaluate teachers, or student learning, outside of the mandated math, language arts and science scores. This extends to assigning requirements on curriculum, state standards, distribution of teachers, and a range of other issues. Moreover, the DOE cannot add additional caveats to waiver applicants, for use in the NCLB waiver process. This significantly strengthens states’ autonomy in education.
  • The Turnaround Arts program which worked with the mandated turnaround strategies, appears nowhere in the bill – the overall structure that existed to support defined School Improvement Grants (SIGs) has been removed

Tomorrow (4/14), the Senate’s HELP Committee will markup this new proposal. NAfME will be present at the markup reporting on all the details (follow NAfME on Twitter for live updates). It is our strong hope that key features of the bill that are most beneficial to music and the arts will be maintained throughout negotiations. We still have a long way to go before we see the full reauthorization of ESEA, but these past couple of weeks have yielded exciting developments.

For more information, including the summary and language of the bill, please review the Senate HELP Committee’s press release.

Christopher Woodside, “In ESEA Reauthorization Talks, Congress Should Keep Music Core,” Roll Call, 20 March 2015.

Ronny Lau, Special Assistant, Center for Advocacy and Constituency Engagement, 7 April 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).