Equity Agenda Advances on Capitol Hill

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Despite the budget stalemate on Capitol Hill this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is taking big steps to improve our nation’s schools. The STELLAR Student Act and the STELLAR Act would provide states and districts with funding to create robust, fair, and transparent evaluation systems for teachers and principals in high-poverty schools.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) have introduced the STELLAR Students Act in the Senate, and Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) have cosponsored the STELLAR Act in the House of Representatives.

Each bill would give Title I schools five years to build evaluation systems for teachers and principals based on effective instruction and leadership. The proposals require input from teachers and principals, and set minimum standards for the new evaluation systems.

The STELLAR bills complement the ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act, which was introduced recently by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). It ensures that students in high-poverty schools receive federal dollars set aside to support their academic achievement. 

The Fiscal Fairness Act is designed to close a loophole in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which currently allows districts to use federal funds to plug funding gaps within districts, rather than using these funds for the intended purpose of providing additional services for impoverished schools. 

Recent movement on these bipartisan bills adds up to progress for students, teachers, and schools, despite a generally toxic and highly partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill.