ESEA Reauthorization


The Advocate, March 2015
Dan Domenech, executive director
AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Everyone in Washington wants to see the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorized except, perhaps, Congress. For a while it looked like the new Congress, under Republican control, would actually get the job done. Both Representative John Kline, chairman of the House education committee, and his counterpart in the Senate, Lamar Alexander, expressed great optimism when we met with them in January. The House bill was considered a shoo-in. They had passed the bill last year and the expectation was that a similar bill would be passed this year. A funny thing happened on the way to a vote, the bill was pulled.

AASA actually sent Chairman Kline a letter supporting the bill, with some caveats. We oppose Title I portability and the elimination of Maintenance of Effort. We also expressed our concern over the funding caps included in the bill which would reduce funding $1.5 billion below FY2010 levels. However, member support for the bill began to fall apart when Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, both conservative organizations wanting to eliminate federal involvement in state and local education (not such a bad idea), pressured a group of Republican lawmakers into balking against the proposed bill. The bill is currently off the table and while there is not a definite date for a vote, there is some hope for a House vote during the week of March 16.

Meanwhile the Senate is still trying to come up with a bipartisan proposal. Senators Alexander and Murray are attempting to solve their differences and are hoping to mark the bill up in committee during the week of April 13.The problem is that the Homeland security funding and other funding bills are bound to take up much of the time in both chambers, squeezing ESEA reauthorization out.

The situation looks bleak and with every passing day the hope that ESEA will be reauthorized diminishes. That puts us back in the hands of the Department of Education and the waiver process, which is becoming increasingly unpopular with state education agencies due to pushback over greater federal involvement, the Common Core, and the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. The Republicans promised that they could make Congress work. They can pass a House bill if they get their act together. The Senate may come up with a bipartisan bill. The White House, however, has already indicated that the President will veto a bill that resembles what the House bill would look like. Do we really want two more years of waivers? Contact your House and Senate representatives and let them know that we really need to put NCLB to rest; details are on the Leading Edge blog.