Advocacy News - In Depth
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed its ESEA reauthorization bill on October 20, on a bipartisan vote of 15-7. The bipartisan Senator Harkin/Senator Enzi bill:
- Eliminates many existing grant programs, including PEP, but establishes the Successful, Safe and Healthy Students grant program, under which states may fund physical activity/fitness/nutrition programs if LEAs apply for funds in those areas. Conditions for learning indicators include physical education standards requirements and reporting of quality physical education minutes. (Overall, the bill consolidates 82 programs into about 40 broader baskets of funding.)
- Establishes a new grant program for "well-rounded" education, under which districts and schools can apply for funding for 11 different subject areas, including physical education and health education. However, all subjects are funded under the same pot of money. Applications will be evaluated at the federal level and will be assessed on how well they demonstrate meeting the district/school's need.
- Neither physical education nor health education are included in the definition of core academic subjects.
- No requirement for teacher evaluation systems - only districts that get Teacher Incentive Fund grants will have to create teacher evaluation programs. The scaling back of teacher evaluation systems is expected to be vigorously debated on the Senate floor – Senator Brown (R-MA), Senator Landrieu (D-LA), and Senator Lieberman (I-CT) sent a letter to the HELP Committee asking that teacher evaluation systems be reinstated.
- Requires states to demonstrate they have college-and-career ready standards in math, reading, and science, but would not require them to join the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
- Keeps annual testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school, but scraps AYP requirements.
On September 13, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the first of its education reform bills, the "Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act." This bill, H.R. 2218, reauthorizes the charter school program and is designed to encourage growth and innovation in charter schools.
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Kline (R-MN-1) plans to move a total of 5 bills that would represent the House reauthorization of ESEA. The charter school bill was the least controversial, and passed the House on a vote of 365-54. However, two other bills that have been approved by the Committee but not yet voted on by the full House are much more controversial. Here is a breakdown of the 5 bills:
- Efficiency bill—eliminated 41 federal education programs deemed by Kline to be unnecessary, redundant, or not a proper role for the federal government. PEP is included in the list.
- Charter school bill (passed by House).
- The "State and Local Funding Flexibility bill", H.R. 2445, passed by the Committee on strict party lines—no Democrat voted for it. Under this measure, states and school districts can use their federal ESEA funds for other activities authorized under the statute. However, since the Committee has already voted to eliminate PEP and because physical education and health education are still not considered "core subjects" as defined in the statute, none of these funds can be used for physical education or health education programs.
- Teacher quality—eliminates "highly qualified" teacher requirement. Requires school districts to create their own teacher evaluation systems and to use these systems when making personnel decisions.
- School/student accountability—eliminates AYP. Requires states to craft their own accountability systems to include setting annual goals for student achievement.
AAHPERD continues to work with various coalitions throughout this process on three issues:
- PE and HE as core academic subjects (via the PHYSICAL Act by Sen. Tom Udall): Senator Udall reintroduced the PHYSICAL Act (S. 392) on February 17. This bill will also reauthorize PEP as a stand-alone program and create a new health education grant program. Visit the Action Alert section of the AAHPERD Legislative Action Center to voice your support!
- Integrity of PEP, with continued robust funding (also in the PHYSICAL Act): In the current economic and political climate, many federal agencies and programs are at risk for elimination, including PEP.
- FIT Kids Act: Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Ron Kind reintroduced the FIT Kids Act (S. 576 & H.R. 1057) which would require schools and districts to report on the quality and quantity of physical education they provide.
Our hope is to get all three of these issues wrapped into the ESEA reauthorization package, however it moves forward. This was the focus of NASPE's 2011 SPEAK Out! Day.
Additional resource links: