Duncan, Alexander Offer Their Goals for ESEA Reauthorization

ESEA is overdue for reauthorization, but the previous Democratic Senate and Republican House were not able to reconcile their interests. Now that the Republicans control Congress, the education community has been asking if the reauthorization will now take place and what it will look like. This week, Secretary Duncan and Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) provided glimpses into their goals for a new ESEA as well as plans for moving forward.

In a speech before the Senate, Alexander set ESEA as the first priority for the HELP Committee. Alexander spoke about removing overt federal involvement in states’ education and outlined key areas to tackle like Adequate Yearly Progress, high-stakes testing, and the NCLB waivers. Also missing from the proposed bill are several funding programs like Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation.

“No Child Left Behind has become unworkable—and fixing this law, which expired over seven years ago, will be the first item on the agenda for the Senate education committee,” Alexander said in a statement. “I look forward to input from all sides on this proposal as we move forward with a bipartisan process that will keep the best portions of the law, while restoring responsibility to states and local communities and ensuring that all 50 million students in our nation’s 100,000 public schools can succeed.”

For more information on proposed changes to ESEA, view the table from the Fordham Institute. The Chairman’s draft bill is open to public comment until Feb. 2; the first hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, January 21, and will cover testing and accountability.

Alexander noted that he plans to work closely with Senator Murray (D-WA), the ranking member on the HELP Committee. Senator Murray released her own list of priorities, which also focus on testing. In addition, she calls for increased funding for schools with high numbers of kids from low-income backgrounds and expanded access to preschool programs.

“Rich or poor, every kid should get a high quality education,” said Senator Murray in her remarks. “And, as the ones who are on the front lines of this noble work—let’s make sure our teachers and principals have the resources they deserve to continue building their skills, so they can best help the students they care so much about. Let’s improve schools through innovation and with coursework that challenges our students – not just so they earn their diploma, but so their diploma means they are truly college and career ready.”

On January 12 Secretary Duncan outlined what he believes should be the foundation of ESEA. His priorities include:

  • Every single child is entitled to an education that sets her up for success in careers, college, and life.
  • Education cannot and should not be just reading and math. The arts and history, foreign languages, financial literacy, physical education, and after school enrichment are as important as advanced math and science classes.
  • All students must be held to high expectations for learning.
  • States should always choose those standards; those standards should align clearly and honestly with what young people will need to know for success in school, in college, and in life.
  • Every single child deserves the opportunity for a strong start in life through high-quality preschool.
  • No student deserves to be cheated out of an education by being stuck in a school that fails too many of its students.
  • We should create new incentives to catalyze bold state and local innovation in support of student success and achievement.

Read Secretary Duncan’s remarks.

AAP will continue to follow ESEA reauthorization and keep its membership informed.

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Education Policy