Family Engagement and the Renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

LBJ_ESEA-signingToday’s guest post is by Jacki Ball, the Director of Government Affairs for National PTA®.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which remains the most comprehensive federal education legislation in the United States today and is a key legislative priority of National PTA. ESEA was first enacted as part of President Johnson’s “war on poverty.” The federal role in education has historically been focused on assisting states to educate disadvantaged populations and special needs children.

The bill has been reauthorized, or renewed several times with the most recent reauthorization occurring in 2002, in which they named the bill, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The ESEA-NCLB in its current form has been due for an update since 2007. Unfortunately, Congress has not been able to come to an agreement on a revised version of the bill for the last eight years. However, members of Congress are currently working on an update to the law. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed a bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) out of its committee along a party-line vote with all Republicans voting in favor of the bill and all the Democrats opposed.

The Democrats consistently raised objections about the lack of a bipartisan process, hearings on the bill, and inclusion of protections for high-need students in the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). Republicans argue that H.R. 5 has been around for years (it was introduced and passed the House floor in the last Congress) and that the bill provides more freedom and flexibility for states and districts to meet the educational needs of students.

On the Senate side, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) are in negotiations to produce a bipartisan bill that can pass out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and get to the Senate floor in early spring. Recent reports indicate that the two have made significant progress and that the Senate education committee may hold a mark-up on an ESEA proposal the week of April 13. This is promising news since the bill in the House of Representatives has stalled and has not received a vote on the House floor as of late March.

National PTA follows many issues related to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), however, its number one priority is Title I and family engagement provisions. Title I of the ESEA supports schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families. To qualify as a Title I school, a school typically has around 40% or more of its students that come from families that qualify under the United States Census’ definitions as low-income, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

ESEA-Watch-small1Under current law, school districts must allocate 1% of their Title I funding for family engagement and states must embed National PTA Standards for Family-School Partnerships in their Title I plans. National PTA would like to see ESEA updated to include an increase in the allocation of Title I funding for family engagement from 1% to 2%. Additionally, we would like to see school districts use National PTA Standards for Family-School Partnerships at the local level to increase effective parental engagement and improve student    outcomes.

But we need your help! National PTA’s goal is to get provisions of the Family Engagement in Education Act (S. 622/H.R. 1194) into a new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In order to so, we need you to Take Action and tell your Member of Congress to cosponsor the bill! The bill would support effective family engagement at all levels of government by increasing the amount of Title I funds that are allocated to family engagement. Additionally, the bill would ensure that states have the capacity to support effective family engagement for all students and families and provide localized services to high-need school communities to promote student achievement and school improvement.

Task Force on School Funding Meeting Wednesday

1024px-Illinoiscapitol2For decades, Illinois PTA has advocated for adequate, equitable and sustainable funding of public schools. Just a few of our specific platform statements are that the Illinois PTA supports:

  • adequate legislative and/or financial support for operation, maintenance, and construction of tax supported schools, and opposes the direct or indirect use of public funds for non-public schools;
  • increase in the state distributive funds for public schools until the amount contributed by the state to supplement local support shall fully guarantee an adequate and realistic foundation program; and
  • full funding of all mandated educational and special programs.

For decades Illinois has gone deeper into debt, cutting education budgets, pro-rating and only paying a portion of what is owed to schools, and making payments to schools later than scheduled. Illinois has now dropped to last in state standings of support of education.

In January, Illinois had a turnaround in state government with the election of a Republican Governor for the first time in over a decade. There is early speculation that Governor Bruce Rauner is looking to support additional funding for some areas of education, while making huge cuts in other areas of education and health and human services. PTA’s position is that funding for education should not adversely affect other services that support children’s health and safety. For very detailed information on Governor Rauner’s budget, go to

For a good read on latest developments on school funding, read the following from the State Journal Register:

Task force on school funding meeting Wednesday


Illinois PTA Supports Vision 20/20

LogosIcons_Vision2020LogoTransparentA coalition of six statewide education organizations have joined forces behind Vision 20/20, including the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO), the Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity (SCSDD), and the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS). Vision 20/20 also has been endorsed by the Illinois PTA, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

“Illinois PTA has long supported equitable and adequate funding, highly qualified educators, local control, and educating the Whole Child.  We were please to collaborate with the other stakeholders to ensure family engagement was included as a vital piece of Vision 20/20. Engaging families in the educational process effectively increases student achievement as well as raising the graduation rate.  This is a win-win for children, families, business, and communities across the state.” Peg Staehlin, President, Illinois PTA

The uniting purpose shared across zip codes and political party lines in Illinois is the overwhelming belief that public education plays a defining role in ensuring equal opportunity. It is our collective duty to do all we can to guarantee every student, no matter his or her demographic or geographic identity, has equal access to a quality education. Public educators believe public education works. They reject the premise that education in Illinois has failed, but recognize its impact has not been equitably delivered to all student populations and that there are opportunities for continuous improvement. Now is the time to act.

Our vision forward is clear. We believe the key to continuous improvement in public education relies on the wisdom and innovation of public educators who work with students every day. This is a continuous process. Educators care about the future of each and every student and for the opportunity to teach and shape the next generation. Through the Vision 20/20 process, four areas for prioritization emerged: highly effective educators, 21st century learning, shared accountability, and equitable and adequate funding.



The quality of teachers and school leaders is the greatest predictor of student achievement schools can influence. By attracting, developing, and retaining our state’s best educators, we can have a profound impact on student learning.




For success in life, students need more than knowledge of math and reading. It is time to expand the definition of student learning, commit to the development of the “whole child,” and invest in policies proven to link all schools to 21st century learning tools.




A quality education for all Illinois students cannot be ensured without the collaboration, compromise, and hard work of both educators and legislators. With that in mind, it is necessary to expand educator responsibility in the legislative process, create a
shared accountability model, and restructure mandates to allow more local district flexibility.



All students in Illinois are entitled to a quality education. It is our duty to ensure our students have access to all necessary resources by improving equity in the funding model, appropriating adequate dollars for education, and allowing local school districts the autonomy needed to increase efficiency.


Educators understand the importance of statewide education policy. However, that policy should be crafted to provide districts the flexibility and autonomy to best meet the needs of the students they serve. Statewide, process-specific mandates in education, similar to over-regulation in the business world, do not result in the innovation needed to improve education and do not recognize the state’s diversity. We believe educators should be held to the highest standards and be given the flexibility to apply their experience and knowledge to match local needs in order to best support each individual student.

The role of family engagement in Vision 20/20 can be found in detail in the Policy Brief.

For more information visit