July 16, 2015

Hirono-Backed Provisions For Hawaii Students Included In Senate’s Historic Comprehensive Education Bill

Key Measures Will Protect Native Hawaiian Education, Stop Cuts To Impact Aid, Expand Early Childhood Education

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono voted to pass the Every Child Achieves Act, which included several key priorities for Hawaii students. The Every Child Achieves Act, which passed the Senate 81-17, is the first comprehensive bill aimed at improving elementary and secondary education to pass the Senate since the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

“For years, I have heard from Hawaii’s teachers, parents, and administrators that No Child Left Behind is broken,” said Senator Hirono. “While the Every Child Achieves Act isn’t perfect, it reverses some of the harmful policies of the No Child Left Behind era and includes several of my provisions that would expand access to early childhood education, save Impact Aid funding to help children of Hawaii’s military families, and strengthen Native Hawaiian educational programs. I’ve been an advocate for education reform since my time as Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor and have seen firsthand the difference that commonsense, evidence-based initiatives can have on our country. I will continue to fight to strengthen our education system to support a 21st century workforce.”

On Wednesday, Senator Hirono took to the Senate floor to highlight provisions that would strike unnecessary testing, and to call for even greater investments to expand and improve quality early childhood education:

Education advocates across Hawaii praised Senator Hirono’s leadership for Hawaii in the Every Child Achieves Act:

“Thousands of military-connected students are educated in our Hawaii public school system,” said Hawaii State Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.  “Federal Impact Aid is a significant portion of our budget to help us fund critical education costs. We appreciate the work of U.S. Senator Hirono and the bipartisan Senate and House Impact Aid Coalitions for successfully defeating a proposal that would have slashed millions from Hawaii’s annual Impact Aid payment.”

“The National Network of State Teachers of the Year is pleased to support the Teacher Leadership Amendment as it will enable the development of critically needed teacher leadership positions and activities, such as Hawaii's Philosophers in Residence initiative, in our nation’s schools,” said 2012 Hawaii Teacher of the Year Chad Miller. “Clearly, Senator Hirono has once again demonstrated her understanding and support for accomplished teachers by putting forward this important amendment.”

“The Native Hawaiian Education Act (NHEA) has supported quality education in Hawaii since 1988,” said Taffi Wise, Business Manager of Kanu o ka Aina Public Charter School. “The Native Hawaiian community is extremely gratified by the actions of Senator Mazie Hirono to preserve this program by including the Native Hawaiian Education Reauthorization Act of 2015 in the U.S. Senate’s K-12 education bill.  Thanks to her foresight, this legislation will increase transparency and openness, and make Native Hawaiian Charter Schools directly eligible for federal NHEA grants.”

“Quality early learning is critical to help our kids start kindergarten ready to succeed,” said Deborah Zysman, Executive Director of the Good Beginnings Alliance. “Thanks to Senator Hirono and other champions for children in Congress for including early childhood in this update of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The bill will help elementary school principals and teachers partner with existing preschool programs in their community. In addition, the bill includes a new grant program, which would provide Hawaii with another opportunity to apply for federal funds to serve more children in quality preschool.”

 Priorities for Hawaii in the Every Child Achieves Act include:

Strengthening Native Hawaiian Education

The Every Child Achieves Act includes important provisions from Senator Hirono’s Native Hawaiian Education Reauthorization Act, a Hawaii delegation bill, to preserve and protect the Native Hawaiian Education Act by increasing transparency and adding Native Hawaiian charter schools as eligible entities for direct federal grants.

Investing in Early Education

The final bill authorizes the Early Learning Alignment and Improvement Grants program, which would help align and expand state-funded public preschool, similar to Sen. Hirono’s PRE-K Act that she first introduced in 2007. The final bill also includes portions of the Continuum of Learning Act, legislation Senator Hirono first co-introduced with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in 2011, to foster coordination between existing early childhood programs and their local elementary schools.

Preserving Federal Impact Aid Funding to Help Serve Hawaii’s Military-Connected Children

The Every Child Achieves Act preserves Hawaii’s federal Impact Aid payments that help educate Hawaii’s military connected students, and reverses at least $30 million in annual cuts to Hawaii threatened in an earlier version of the bill. In February, Senator Hirono and members of the bipartisan Senate and House Impact Aid Coalitions sent a letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee asking to preserve funding for this important program. The bill also includes pieces of the bipartisan Local Taxpayer Relief Act Senator Hirono co-introduced with Senator John Thune (R-SD) to simplify Impact Aid student counts and speed up payments. Then-Representative Hirono first introduced a version of this legislation as the Fair Funding for Schools Act in 2007.

Reducing Unnecessary Testing, Supporting Multiple Measures of Success

The bill includes pieces of Senator Tammy Baldwin’s (D-WI) Support Making Assessments Reliable and Timely (SMART) Act, a bill Senator Hirono cosponsored to audit and eliminate redundant tests. It also includes Senator Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) amendment that sets a cap on the percent of instructional time spent on testing. The Every Child Achieves Act also requires multiple measures of success beyond test scores, by requiring schools to report on equal access to educational resources, including school discipline and safety, per-pupil expenditure, class size, qualified teachers, Advanced Placement, early college programs, and other measures of students’ opportunity to learn.

Improving Educational Data Collection

The final bill includes portions of Senator Hirono’s All Students Count Act that will publish student achievement data cross-tabulated by subgroups such as race, gender, disability, and economically disadvantaged status (i.e. reports could examine achievement of girls and boys with a disability together or separately.) This more detailed data will help educators, parents, and communities better understand the needs of their students. Senator Hirono also introduced an amendment with Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) that would address disparities in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community by requiring detailed reporting on student achievement using the same AAPI subgroups in the Census, such as Filipino, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, and Samoan. Although the amendment was narrowly defeated, Senator Hirono will continue to fight for better data on the AAPI community.

Increasing Opportunity for Teacher Leadership

The bill includes portions of Senator Hirono’s amendment to allow funding to be used for excellent teachers to mentor new teachers, increase time for common planning, lead professional development, and have a voice in school and district leadership. The amendment was endorsed by National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), National Associations of Elementary and Secondary School Principals (NAESP and NASSP), American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNOSTY), National Writing Project (NWP), and National Council on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF).