This is my weekly feature called the “Tuesday To-Do List.” I am making it super easy for you, yes you, to get involved in advocacy and lobbying efforts for families with special needs and disabilities. I bring you information on the hottest topics in this area right now, places to find information and specific and simple steps you can take to help the effort. Today we are going to talk about ESEA and the reauthorization of this legislation.
First, this is a FEDERAL issue, not state or local. So you will want to contact your FEDERAL legislators–your person from the House of Representatives and your two Federal Senators.
What is ESEA?
ESEA stands for Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It’s important to note that many federal laws and acts are not permanent–they often have a expiration date and a reauthorization period. It is usually during that time that revisions and changes are made to that act or law. SASA, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, is what was introduced to reauthorized ESEA.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities has written a nice policy brief on ESEA, including at the very end–my personal favorite, a call for full funding of IDEA and ESEA. You know I love to rant about that 40% we so desperately need.
In a nutshell:
The Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) challenges states and school districts to increase efforts to improve student academic achievement. Its accountability provisions focus attention on low-performing groups of students, intending to close the achievement gap. ~NCLD
Why this reauthorization of ESEA is more important than past revisions
As you can see, ESEA has looked different over the years, including one of the biggest changes when it became NCLB. Now, this particular revision is more important for us because more is being decided about accountability and disabilities.
Right now they are deciding whether or not the school districts should have full accountability for children with disabilities or learning disabilities. In some new versions of ESEA, the expectations and achievement goals for children with disabilities have been weakened and watered down. We want to encourage Congress and our schools to keep our kids on track to earn diplomas, regular diplomas, with the rest of America’s children. We do not want lower expectations for our kids, we want to be fully included and full funding to get the accommodations we need. We want the ESEA to expand to give greater access to Early Intervention programs when kids are young. We want effective instruction for kids with disabilities so that they can learn the same material as their age peers.
We DO NOT want weakened standards, expectations or accountability. We want to close the achievement gap, not make it completely legal and encouraged to widen it.
If you want to read more, visit the blog of the US Department of Education and what they have to say about ESEA.
What you can do for ESEA or SASA
The NCLD has made it very easy to send a letter. They have a whole form thing filled out which makes it very simple. Just go to that link and personalize yours and send it off.
You can also find your Representative and Senators here, to make sure you know who to address it to.
And, as always, here are some Tweets for you to Tweet. All you have to do is click it and your Twitter window will pop up and you can send it. If you are not in Pennsylvania, here is the list of Twitter handles for all Senators, just add the names to the generic tweets, I’ve left about 40 spaces for names/handles.
Tweets to help with SASA and ESEA
Generic Tweet, just insert your Senators’ Twitter handles, use list above, tweet is only about 60 characters.
Tweet to the GOP party and House GOP– no extra characters.
Tweet to House and Senate Democrats– 5 extra characters
And if it’s too hard to click a link, here you go, click a box!
[Tweet “@SenToomey @SenBobCasey Pls vote for #SASA Do not weaken expectations for kids with #disabilities #ESEA http://bit.ly/14uvlxn”]
[Tweet “Pls vote for #SASA Do not weaken expectations for kids with #disabilities #ESEA http://bit.ly/14uvlxn”]
[Tweet “@GOPConference @GOP We must pass #SASA and strengthen expectations for kids with #disabilities not weaken them #ESEA http://bit.ly/14uvlxn @LDOrg”]
[Tweet “@SenateDems @HouseDemocrats Pls vote for #SASA and strengthen expectations for kids with #disabilities #ESEA http://bit.ly/14uvlxn”]
Edited: Updating this post to add the letter I got back from Senator Toomey.