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Dear Education Advocates:

As children across the country anticipate the holiday season, many states are anxiously awaiting the outcome of their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver applications.  Eleven states submitted applications for waivers to the U.S. Department of Education last month in the first round and will receive a decision by mid-January, while another batch of states gets ready to apply in mid-February.  Furthermore, seven states turned in complete applications for the Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge (RTTT-ELC) and results could be announced in time for a yuletide celebration.

In the final days of 2011, there are many looming questions about the role of the federal government in education.  The Senate will likely not be taking another look at the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) until after the first of the year, and it is unclear if the House will pass a comprehensive education bill in this Congress.  Legislators are struggling to make ends meet in the budgetary processes, and the impact of significant cuts has potential to seep into classrooms across the country.

As the year draws to a close, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Education team would like to wish you and your families a festive holiday season and a bright new year.  Please enjoy this issue of LEARN and visit us online at www.nclr.org for more information on NCLR’s education programs and policy initiatives.


The NCLR Education Policy and Programs Team

Early Childhood Education

New Head Start Funding System

This month, the Office of Head Start (OHS) announced a new rule which is intended to improve the quality of Head Start and Early Head Start programs, the nation’s largest federally funded preschool program.  The rule establishes a new funding structure for Head Start grantees, requiring programs that are performing poorly to compete with other programs for continued funding.  This newly designed renewal system places an emphasis on the use of the Classroom Assessment and Scoring System (CLASS), a rating tool that is intended to measure the quality of programs.  Grantees will have to meet minimum threshold scores on the CLASS in order to maintain funding.  In addition, there are six other conditions that could trigger a program to be “re-competed.”  This new development marks a unique opportunity for young Hispanic children and their families, as the re-competition of grants could potentially increase Latino children’s access to Head Start programs.  Keep checking our website for new developments on this issue!

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K-12 Education

Senate Holds Hearing on NCLB

On November 8, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing titled “Beyond NCLB: Views on the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act.”  The hearing was held after the HELP committee passed their version of a reauthorized Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and at the request of Senator Rand Paul (R–KY), who felt there was insufficient time to digest and discuss the bill when it was voted on in late October.  Despite the awkward timing, the hearing provided an opportunity for ten witnesses to respond to the various provisions of the bill.  Among those witnesses was Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who discussed the importance of maintaining strong accountability provisions in ESEA, particularly for students of color.  Click here to watch a webcast of the hearing and click here to see a growing list of organizations who are withholding support for the senate’s proposal.

Eleven States Apply for U.S. Department of Education ESEA Waiver

On November 14, 11 States (Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee) applied to the U.S. Department of Education to receive ESEA waivers.  In their applications, states had to develop new accountability models in addition to developing college and career-ready standards and new teacher evaluation systems.  The waiver applications will be reviewed by a panel of peer reviewers, who were announced by the Department on Friday, November 18.  These states could be granted waivers as soon as January.

As these waivers are becoming a reality, it is important that advocates are informed and involved in both the development of the application and in the implementation process.  For this reason, on November 16, the Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE) held a Twitter town hall to discuss the significance of waivers to students and communities of color.  In addition to the town hall, CHSE has created a rubric to help individuals evaluate states’ applications.  To download the rubric and ESEA waiver tool kit, click here.

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Common Standards

NCLR Affiliate to Host Convening on Common Standards

On December 16, the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc. (CHCF), an NCLR Affiliate, will host a panel discussion on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation in New York.  The discussion will focus on both New York City and New York State implementation plans and will address professional development, bilingual education, English language learner (ELL) assessments, and strategies for implementing CCSS.  CHCF hopes to obtain more information about strategies for CCSS from the invited panelists to better inform their constituencies while also engaging educators, academics, principals, community organizations, advocates, and legislators in a meaningful conversation about the needs of ELL Latinos.  Invited panelists include Betty Rosa, Member of the Board of Regents for New York State Department of Education; Dr. Janice Molnar, Deputy Commissioner of Childcare Services for New York State; Laura Rodriguez, Deputy Chancellor of New York City Department of Education; and Raul Gonzales, Director of Legislative Affairs at NCLR. 

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Legislative Update 

Senator Harkin Makes a Statement on ESEA

On November 10, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Harkin gave a speech on the Senate floor on ESEA and urged the House to produce a bipartisan bill to ease the way for Senate passage of the Harkin-Enzi bill.  The Senator also told the Des Moines Register that he does not anticipate the bill reaching the Senate floor before 2012.

“Super Committee”

On November 21, the co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “Super Committee,” announced that it could not come to a bipartisan agreement on a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit.  With the announcement that the Super Committee will not be proposing a deficit reduction plan, an alternative mechanism (sequestration) in the Budget Control Act is scheduled to take place starting in January of 2013 to produce the $1.2 trillion in required savings over the next ten years.  Under the Act, half of these savings must come from defense spending and half from non-defense spending, including education.  This amounts to cuts of $54.7 billion a year to both defense and non-defense spending in 2013 through 2021 (a total of $109.3 billion each year).  While the consequences for cuts to the Department of Education are unclear, Pell Grants will remain untouched in the first round of cuts but could be threatened in coming years. 

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Federal Education Grants

U.S. Department of Education Announces i3 winners 

On November 10, the U.S. Department of Education announced 23 winners of the $150 million in funding for the second round of Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund grants.  The grants are divided into three categories—as they were in the first round—into scale-up grants, validation grants, and development grants.  Grant recipients are required to obtain private-sector matching funds by December 9.  For more information about the i3 grants, click here, and for the full list of winners click here

Race to the Top Round Three

On November 16, the U.S. Department of Education released guidelines for Race to the Top Round 3 (RTT3), in which the nine state finalists from Round Two could apply for a share of $200 million.

On November 23, seven states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) applied for RTT3.  The other two eligible states were South Carolina, who opted out of the competition, and California, who submitted an incomplete application.  Winning states can use the money for a selected portion of their second-round proposal, and applicants were asked to include a “meaningful investment in advancing” STEM education in their applications.  Winners will be announced in late December.  

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Take Action!

Alabama Law Threatens Home Loss

The passage of HB 56 in Alabama has had damaging repercussions for Hispanic children and families.  Now, families are facing the threat of losing their homes.  Families living in mobile homes across the state are particularly vulnerable after a new licensing law went into place on November 15 which requires documentation of lawful presence for everyone applying for mobile home tags.  The total ramifications are unclear, but advocates on the ground are concerned about evictions and the targeting of families who are unable to renew their tags.  A family’s home should be the place where parents and children feel safest, but Alabama’s laws are causing fear and intimidation in immigrant households and communities of color.  Click here to urge the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate fair housing violations and discrimination against families in Alabama.

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