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LWSD board joins calls for ESEA reauthorization

The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) board of directors passed a resolution at its May 5 meeting calling on Congress to pass a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

The Washington State School Directors' Association (WSSDA) Board of Directors passed a similar resolution on May 1 and requested that school boards across the state discuss and support the resolution.

Congress reauthorized the original ESEA of 1965 every five years until 2001, when Congress passed the current version of ESEA. Since that time, the mandates and requirements of the law have been left in place.

The resolution noted that the accountability provisions in the current law "unfairly and inaccurately reflect the academic progress of students, schools and school districts," resulting in public schools being labeled as "failing" and subject to punitive sanctions.

The law called for all public schools to reach a level of 100 percent of students at standard in reading and math by 2014. Schools that do not meet the requirements face an escalating series of sanctions.

The Department of Education has offered waivers to compliance with ESEA to states since 2011. The state of Washington operated under a waiver but has recently lost that waiver. The waiver was revoked because one of the commitments required by the Department of Education for the waiver was a teacher and principal evaluation system that uses state assessments as a significant factor in determining performance levels. While a measure to meet that requirement was proposed in the last legislative session, it did not pass.

Without the waiver, Washington will once again be subject to the original sanctions of ESEA. For LWSD, that will mean setting aside 20 percent of the Title I funds received from the federal government. This money must be reserved for either supplemental educational services or for transportation to support public school choice – allowing students to leave schools that receive Title I Schools and have not met Annual Yearly Progress and go to other schools in the district.

The district's total Title I budget is $1,632,863. The district will set aside 20 percent ($326,573) to be in compliance with this legislation.

"We will lose some great programs that are really helping kids," said board President Jackie Pendergrass. "Under the waiver, we have been putting Title I money to use in programs like the Kindergarten Intensive Safety Net, which is making sure that students who are behind when they start school catch up with their peers early on in their academic career. That's far more valuable than paying for an outside tutor or for a bus to take students to another school."

Board members expressed frustration with both state and federal legislators for failing to pass legislation at the state level that would enable regaining a waiver or at the federal level to overhaul the ESEA entirely.

The board's resolution will be sent to the state and federal legislators representing the areas served by the district, which include Kirkland, Redmond and part of Sammamish.

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