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Senate ‘left behind’ old education bill

‘Every Child Achieves Act’ passes with Colorado senator’s help

WASHINGTON – With considerable input from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., a former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, the Senate on Thursday passed the Every Child Achieves Act.

But concerns over civil rights and accountability promise to make it challenging for Congress to get a bill to President Barack Obama’s desk.

“The money won’t be the be-all, end-all,” said Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger. “Durango only stands to receive about $400,000 from this kind of federal legislation, but it is helpful for driving the agenda and shaping policy.”

Snowberger was pleased the bill would lift regulations imposed by No Child Left Behind and was hopeful it would allow his district the flexibility to institute local tests as agreed upon by teachers across any particular school district versus standards and prescriptions passed down by the federal government.

The Senate bill capitalized on this sentiment in favor of more local control and passed with a vote of 81 to 17, but a House version passed narrowly with no Democrats supporting it.

Hours before the bill passed, Bennet celebrated inclusion of his amendment to adjust the complicated formulas that determine funding states receive under Title 1, which sets money aside for low-income communities.

“This amendment means kids in Colorado will be treated more equitably,” Bennet said.

Funding for low-income areas is at the heart of House Democrats’ opposition to the bill.

“The most egregious thing about the House bill is that it would change the funding formula so that Los Angeles Unified School District, which has a poverty rate of 70 percent, would lose about a quarter of its funding,” said Rep. Robert Scott, D-Newport News, who is the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “Meanwhile, neighboring Beverly Hills – with virtually no poverty – would gain an additional 30 percent in funding.”

Major civil-rights groups oppose the Senate bill. They say it lacks sufficient accountability measures to help close the achievement gap between minorities and whites identified by the testing requirements of No Child Left Behind.

“(The Senate bill) throws students of color, students with disabilities, English learners and low-income students under the bus,” wrote The Leadership Conference, a coalition including the National Congress of American Indians. “It allows schools and districts to take federal funds and yet freely ignore the needs of vulnerable students.”

mbaksh@durangoherald.com. Mariam Baksh is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.

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