Monday, June 10, 2013

The federal tug of war . . .

At the same time that we are watching the partisan budget setting process in Olympia, the issue of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in Washington D.C. is once again being discussed.  Last week three pieces of legislation rewriting the act and replacing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) were introduced.  Unfortunately, just like the gap in the Democratic and Republican budget proposals in Olympia, there is a gulf between the competing reauthorization proposals in Washington D.C.  This picture from a blog in the National Journal shows the difference between a Republican bill and Democratic bill by the size of the legislation.  The Republican bill, intended to remove the federal government from much of the oversight, takes far fewer pages to draft.

Fawn Johnson
All three of the new bills move away form the requirement for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) one of the key components of NCLB.  The Senate Democrats proposal allows states with waivers to use that plan for meeting the school improvement and student growth requirements of the legislation.  The Senate and House Republicans would give state's autonomy to determine school improvement and student growth accountability.  There is, however, an interesting difference in the two Republican proposals.  The Senate version would allow states to use student outcomes in teacher evaluation while the House version would require evaluations based on student outcomes.

So, the gap between the various proposals is large making the likelihood of replacing ESEA that expired I believe five years ago not likely in this session.  It does, however, if the bills reach the floor set the stage for long overdue conversations on the federal government's role in public education.  My sense is that as we get closer to Common Core implementation and assessments legislators will begin hearing more from their constituents that could influence the pace of these deliberations and a final resolution to this needed direction.  Until then, let the tug of war continue.

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