July 13, 2011
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,|
On Bill That Would Undo Longtime Support for Disadvantaged Students
The House Education and the Workforce Committee today marked up H.R. 2445, the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that could have a devastating effect on the education of disadvantaged children.
WASHINGTON—This bill would undermine the original purpose of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by dismantling 45 years of legislative policy committed to ensuring that disadvantaged children are provided a high-quality education that allows them to compete on the same level playing field as their more advantaged peers.That is why Title I, the cornerstone program of ESEA, always has targeted resources to districts serving high concentrations of needy students and included safeguards to ensure that those funds are spent on the children.
H.R. 2445 would end these safeguards and allow states and school districts to redirect funds away from the students who need them most. For example, funding intended to help English language learners or low-income students could be redirected to schools serving less-needy students.
This open-ended expansion of existing flexibility, as proposed under H.R. 2445, could lead to districts and states changing their focus from closing achievement gaps to other purposes not related to improving the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. Helping needy students gain access to a high-quality public education is a commitment and responsibility that must be sustained, and cannot be interrupted by arbitrary changes in focus and funding.
We do not believe the overly broad flexibility authorized under this bill would serve the interests of the children ESEA was designed to assist. We urge Congress to consider the potentially harmful consequences of this bill, and to stand instead with students who need ESEA’s targeted assistance.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.