House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) released two new drafts of legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on Friday afternoon. Legislators and stakeholders from both parties have agreed that the accountability measures put in place by the law’s current authorization—No Child Left Behind—are not working. Under the current law, 100% of students must meet proficiency requirements in reading and math by 2014 in order to secure continued federal funding. Opinions vary as to how to improve upon the current system, with some favoring one nation-wide system and others calling for increased local control. Congressman Kline—along with most Republicans—falls into the latter category, and hopes that his bills will shift more control over education from the federal government to parents, teachers and local administrators. He emphasized that the draft language is not a final proposal but “a step forward in the ongoing debate.” The first draft, called the “Student Success Act,” deals with revising school accountability standards. The second is called the “Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act.”
Student Success Act
This draft would replace No Child Left Behind’s Annual Yearly Progress requirements with more flexibility for states to define achievement standards and targets, including the ability to develop alternative standards for students with “the most significant disabilities.” Other changes include:
· States would define their own system for turning around underperforming schools, lifting federally intervention requirements;
· All funding for the Education Department’s School Improvement Grants to turn around failing schools would be diverted to increase funding for Title I programs;
· The Secretary of Education’s powers to impose regulations on states and school districts would be significantly curtailed;
· Funding for specific programs including low-income schools, English language learners, and rural education would be merged into Title I general funding, and could be used for any education programs at the discretion of states and local school districts;
· The federal requirement that teachers be highly qualified would be repealed; and
· Funding authorization would be limited to recently-passed FY 2012 levels.
Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act
This draft eliminates and consolidates over 70 existing ESEA programs and allows for more flexibility at the state and local levels for using the law’s current more rigidly defined funding streams. Other changes include:
· Looser requirements for teacher-evaluation systems;
· Capping the funding which can be used to reduce class size;
· A New Local Academic Flexible Grant program, which provides funding for programs other than those provided at traditional public schools; and
· Eliminating any programs and provisions targeted at specific national organizations in order to comply with the House ban on earmarks.
Congressman Kline’s Democratic counterpart came out against the proposed drafts. Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) said that the proposal would “eliminate critical programs and funding that promote a balanced education.” He also expressed disappointment that the Republicans “opted to walk away from bipartisanship and craft partisan legislation.” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has said that he is waiting on a bipartisan proposal from the House before moving for a floor vote on his version of ESEA legislation, which garnered the support of three Republicans on the Committee. The only bipartisan legislation to pass either chamber of Congress during the broad attempt to reauthorize ESEA is H.R. 2218, which would provide funding to replicate successful charter school models. That bill passed the House in September 2011.
As a member of New England Council, we publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington. This edition is drawn from the Council’s Higher Ed Committee Update of Jan. 10, 2012.
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