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Rep. Bobby Scott Urges Big-District Leaders to Press GOP on Title I Portability

By Lauren Camera — March 16, 2015 3 min read
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Members of the Council of the Great City Schools headed to Capitol Hill Monday afternoon to lobby lawmakers in Congress about rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act—and many will be pushing hard against Republican proposals that would make Title I money for low-income students portable.

“The matter of the fact is that low-income areas aren’t going to do well politically in getting their fair share of resources [compared to] the wealthier areas,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the ranking member of the House education committee, who spoke Monday afternoon during a luncheon at the group’s annual legislative conference.

When asked by one member of the group what they should focus on during their congressional visits, Scott urged them to press Republicans on Title I portability and other funding issues, like the elimination of maintenance of effort, that he (and most Democrats, including the administration) see as harmful for low-income communities.

“When you lobby, you need to lobby for the old funding formula so the ones who really need the help get the help,” said Scott. “If not, we’re back to pre-1965. Funding is the most important.”

“In the place of public education, separate but equal has no place,” Scott added.

Scott’s comments come nearly three weeks after GOP leaders in the House of Representatives were forced to yank a Republican-backed overhaul of the NLCB law from the floor after members of their own party began withdrawing support for the measure. A final vote on the bill has not yet been rescheduled.

Meanwhile, we’re going on week four of negotiations between Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate education committee. The two are trying to broker a bipartisan NCLB rewrite that would appeal to enough members in each caucus to overcome a 60-vote threshold and clear the chamber.

Congressional efforts to give the outdated law a facelift headlined this year’s CGCS annual legislative conference.

In addition to Scott’s speech, members heard from the majority and minority policy staff on both chambers’ education committees. A few members of the group were even handpicked to meet with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to talk about the administration’s priorities for overhauling the federal K-12 law.

You can read more about the president’s pitch to the attendees—a list that included CGCS executive director Mike Casserly, Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, Richard Carranza, the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, Michael O’Neill, school board chair of the Boston Public Schools, and others—here and here.

Unfortunately, the discussion with committee staff, which was filled with juicy nuggets about the ongoing negotiations, was announced off-the-record at the last minute, so I cannot share any of it with you. (Trust me, I’m just as disappointed as you.)

So where do things currently stand in each chamber?

In the House, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., Chairman of the education committee and author of the bill that was pulled from the floor, said he hopes his bill will get a vote as early as this week, though that’s unlikely since it has not been scheduled for floor time by leadership. Last week, Kline’s committee blasted out emails touting the measure’s conservative principles—something that was questioned by his colleagues after a blog post on an anti-Common Core State Standards website that railed against Kline’s bill went viral.

However it’s unclear whether the bill will ever be rescheduled, a prospect that becomes more grim the closer the chamber gets to appropriations season, which typically clogs the congressional calendars with spending measures.

And since we’re on the topic, efforts to fund the 2016 fiscal year officially kicked off March 4, when Duncan defended the president’s budget request before the House appropriations subcommittee that makes decisions about education funding. The House and Senate budget committees plan to release their fiscal year 2016 spending blueprints this week.

In the Senate, Alexander and Murray announced that they plan to mark up their forthcoming bill the week of April 13. They’ll likely unveil it a week or two before the markup in order to gather feedback from colleagues and stakeholders, so stay tuned for more news on that front.