Federal Legislative Highlights: Contact members of Congress regarding ESEA reauthorization

The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) and the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) — the House and Senate bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — await floor votes in their respective chambers. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is completing its report on S. 1177, which was passed unanimously by the Committee in April.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is engaged in ongoing discussions with Senate Committee staff and offices in preparation for floor consideration, which may begin this month. We anticipate a number of amendments regarding the Title I grant program for disadvantaged students, as well as others regarding graduation rates, school climate, and more.

As we await the House and Senate floor action and subsequent House-Senate conference committee negotiations to reconcile differences between the two bills, please continue the dialogue with your members of Congress and encourage further action to modernize ESEA. Find a sample message at the NSBA Legislative Action Center, which you can use for talking points in your meetings, telephone calls and emails to your members of Congress and their staff. NSBA’s comparison chart regarding the House and Senate ESEA bills provides further details.

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NSBA recommends balancing access and privacy in update of FERPA law: The 1974 Federal Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) is under bipartisan review by the House Education & the Workforce Committee, and NSBA recommendations developed by the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Federal Advocacy & Public Policy call for preventing undue burden on school districts.

School boards and their attorneys recognize that the law needs a fresh approach, one that reflects the new and emerging reality of how schools collect, store, manage and work with student information in the 21st century.

NSBA calls for an update that minimizes undue burden on school districts and remains relevant and applicable to ever-evolving technology tools, school practices, and societal norms. NSBA applauds the Committee for undertaking a bipartisan update to the law, and further applauds the depth and breadth of stakeholder involvement in preparation of draft legislation. While the timeframe for introducing a bill is not firm, the Committee could take up a bill prior to the August recess.

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Secure Rural Schools program payments: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has processed payments to states for Fiscal Year 2014, pursuant to Congress’ recent two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Community Self-Determination Act.  Approximately $285 million in funding will benefit 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in support of local public schools, public roads and other purposes. The Department also announced that payments for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 are not subject to reductions under sequestration (across-the-board federal budget cuts) because the SRS program was not reauthorized at the time the sequestration order for each of the fiscal years was issued.

The Secure Rural Schools program provides payments in lieu of property tax revenues to more than 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools located near national forests and reserves throughout the country.  Because these national forests and other federal properties are exempt from property taxes, this program provides federal payments to the respective jurisdictions to help support public schools, forest health projects and other governmental operations. View the payment information.

NSBA appreciates Congress’ bipartisan efforts to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act for two years. In addition, NSBA urges a permanent reauthorization of the program, as this law recognizes the need for sustained funding to school districts that have non-taxable federal properties within their boundaries.

About mnmsba

The Minnesota School Boards Association, a leading advocate for public education, supports, promotes and strengthens the work of public school boards.
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