February 26, 2015

Sen. Whitehouse Introduces Two Education Bills

Senator Intends to Champion These Proposals in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization Process

Washington, DC – For the last several weeks the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has been working towards reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – also known as the No Child Left Behind law.  Today, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced two bills that he plans to champion as the Committee continues its effort to reauthorize ESEA.

“These proposals will help to improve key aspects of our education system: ensuring success for students in the middle grades, and providing students with fulfilling after-school activities,” said Whitehouse.  “The ESEA reauthorization is our most significant opportunity this Congress to pursue commonsense reforms that help students and teachers, and I hope these proposals will be incorporated into the larger bill.”

Details on each of Whitehouse’s bills are below.

The Community Partnerships in Education Act

The Community Partnerships in Education Act would encourage school districts and community-based organizations to work together to improve the availability and quality of afterschool programming for students.  It has been championed in the House of Representatives by Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI), who first became involved in afterschool planning during his time as Mayor of Providence.

“Ensuring young people have the tools they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom is essential to building our communities and strengthening our economy,” said Cicilline, who first introduced the Community Partnerships in Education Act in the 113th Congress and has been a champion for afterschool programs throughout his time in public service. “When schools and communities partner to provide services around education, athletics, and job readiness, our young people have the best chance to access high-quality, holistic educational opportunities. I want to thank Senator Whitehouse for his leadership on this legislation in the Senate, and for advocating for afterschool programs and community partnerships on the Senate HELP Committee.”

According to the Afterschool Alliance’s most recent America After 3pm report, 15 million children are left unsupervised after school from the hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.  In Rhode Island, 17 percent of K-12 youth participate in afterschool programs, however, 27 percent are alone at some point each week, and 38 percent would participate in an afterschool program if they had the opportunity.  The study also found that, nationwide, parents said that afterschool programs made it easier for them to keep their jobs while providing peace of mind about their children.

Cicilline and Whitehouse’s legislation would amend the ESEA to incentivize partnerships between school districts and community organizations to provide enriching afterschool activities for children.  For example, a school’s math unit on fractions could be augmented by an afterschool cooking program to give students hands-on experience with the concepts they are learning in the classroom.  Eligible activities go beyond academics and could include community improvement projects connecting students to their neighbors and community.

The Success in the Middle Act

The Success in the Middle Act aims to help middle-grade students who are at-risk of dropping out of high school transition to and complete their secondary schooling.  The bill would provide federal grants to underachieving school systems for early-warning and intervention strategies, including:

  • Developing and implementing comprehensive, school-wide improvement efforts in eligible schools;
  • Providing professional development and coaching to school leaders, teachers and other school personnel in addressing the needs of all learners and in using challenging and relevant research-based best practices and curriculum; and
  • Implementing student supports such as extended learning time and personal academic plans that enable all students to stay on the path to graduation.

Earlier versions of this legislation were introduced in the Senate by Barack Obama before he was elected President, and later by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).  Whitehouse has been the lead sponsor of the bill since 2011.

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