News-in-Brief – April 2010

Administration Releases ESEA Blueprint

The U.S. Department of Education has released its framework for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind), entitled A Blueprint for Reform. The Blueprint follows and extends the outline developed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, focusing on several key priorities: college- and career-ready students; great teachers and leaders; meeting the needs of diverse learners; a complete education; successful, safe, and healthy students; and fostering innovation and excellence. The Blueprint consolidates a number of current competitive grant programs under these larger priority areas.

As with any pronouncement from the Administration or Congress, the Blueprint is engendering criticism from a variety of stakeholders. School districts are concerned that a greater emphasis on competitive funding will make budgeting difficult in already stressful economic times. Concerns have arisen about tying teacher compensation to students’ test scores, as well as the continued general focus on student assessment. On the other hand, some business leaders are praising the plan’s focus on college- and career-ready standards and preparation. Click here for a copy of the ESEA Blueprint.

Now it’s Congress’s responsibility to write the ESEA legislation. The Blueprint received favorable bipartisan reviews from members of the congressional education committees. However, members are not necessarily disposed to eliminating or consolidating into larger block grants some of the small targeted programs they traditionally have championed. There does seem to be growing bipartisan support for stronger, more uniform standards. LDA will be tracking the action and participating actively as the process unfolds.

LDA Submits Comments on ESEA

As staff gets ready to begin drafting a bill, the House Committee on Education and Labor put out a call for specific comments from stakeholders on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind). LDA answered this call with detailed information on how to improve the law to ensure the needs of students with learning disabilities are recognized and addressed. You can read LDA’s comments on our website at www.ldanatl.org.

The LDA comments address a wide range of issues. Some of the topics addressed include providing necessary supports for students to access the general education curriculum, using the principles of universal design for learning, and maintaining the ESEA subgroup of students with disabilities. The comments also reflect LDA’s serious concern about any recommendations that Individualized Education Programs (IEP) would be used as the accountability tool for students with disabilities. LDA also is sharing these comments with Senate staff, who have indicated a desire to have a bill ready for committee discussion in May.

Student Aid Reform Signed into Law

In late March, President Obama signed into law the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which went through Congress as part of the health care reconciliation package. One of the president’s important education goals is to dramatically increase the number of college graduates by 2020, and part of that effort involves a significant new investment in higher education. The law includes a $2 billion competitive grant program for community colleges to develop and improve educational and career training programs. Since students with learning disabilities may start their higher education or career paths through community colleges, this investment is particularly important.

SAFRA will provide a $36 billion investment over 10 years to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant scholarship and a strong investment in bolstering college access and completion supports. The law also converts all new federal student lending to the direct loan program. Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions will receive $2.55 billion to provide students with the support they need to stay in school and graduate. Click here for further information about Student Aid Reform.

EPA Announces Actions to Address Potential Risks of BPA

As reported in News in Brief last fall, the LDA Research Committee is tracking government action to address the potentially serious environmental and human effects of bisphenol A (BPA). Animal studies already have shown BPA to cause developmental, reproductive, and endocrine anomalies. In late March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new actions to look specifically at the environmental impact.

LDA is concerned about both the potential direct health risks of BPA through its wide use in the manufacture of plastics used in many items including food packaging and baby bottles and its release into the environment. The EPA’s planned actions include the following:

  • Adding BPA to the chemical concern list on the basis of potential environmental effects.
  • Requiring information on concentrations of BPA in surface water, ground water, and drinking water to determine if BPA levels are of potential concern.
  • Requiring manufacturers to provide test data to help the EPA evaluate possible impacts, including long-term effects on growth, reproduction, and development in marine and wildlife.
  • Looking for ways to reduce unnecessary exposures while the agency continues to study the chemical.
  • Continuing to evaluate the potential disproportionate impact on children through exposure from non-food packaging uses.
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