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Getting Education Bills to the Finish Line

CER interns had the chance to tune in to a Brookings Institution webinar entitled “Getting Education Bills to the Finish Line”, and listened to former Capitol Hill staffers tackle the issue of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA).

During the webinar, the failure to reauthorize ESEA was attributed to the introduction of the No Child Left Behind waivers, while failure of HEA was attributed to an abundance of policy proposals and executive orders, like giving letter grades to college institutions.

The overall consensus of the panel was that these bills needed to be updated to currently reflect education of today and the future. Some pointed to the separation of the branches of government and the non-alignment of the political parties as the reason these laws haven’t been updated. Panelists recalled their time in the Senate when legislators only wanted to be involved with the Executive Branch if it was an election year. The fact is there is not a bill that combines both the views of the Democrats and the Republicans, so anything passing is highly unlikely.

It was clear that education has become some sort of a “political football” that will be one a large factor in the upcoming presidential campaigns. Although the Obama Administration tried to pass these education bills, they failed because “shooting at POTUS is more popular than working with him”.

The panelists then took a vote on which bills they thought could hypothetically pass, and the results were mixed: reauthorization of HEA was unlikely, ESEA was 75% maybe/yes, and a proposed standardized higher education bill was a definite no.

I believe that both the House and the Senate need to put aside political agendas and focus on what’s important: THE CHILDREN. They need to figure out exactly

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Fast Tracking the Status Quo

clock(Originally posted to the National Journal‘s Education Experts blog.)

Perhaps it’s not so unusual that the same person who fought to get a waiver from NCLB’s tutoring requirement is the same person who is pushing a fast track for making the bill’s requirements more flexible. When some of Arne Duncan’s Chicago schools were failing kids, he asked then Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for a waiver from the requirement that students be permitted to leave and take their tutoring money elsewhere. Arne Duncan thought he could do tutoring better than the private sector, so he sought to deliver tutoring rather than send the money out of house. There’s no data on whether it worked, and some in Chicago say not much changed during that period of time following NCLB, other than a heightened awareness of the problem and a tenacity by Duncan to pursue some modest, external reforms (charters, some contracting). Once a school superintendent, always a school superintendent. And while Duncan is not the issue, his brand of reform puts Superintendents and school boards in the driver’s seat. Problem is, last time they drove that car, it kept getting banged up.

But it was NCLB’s teeth – the threat of loss of money or worse – that got people motivated. The hard, fast consequences of accountability, and the spotlight on data, however challenged by differing vantage points, prevented the country from hiding the shameful state of education in our schools, from the world or ourselves…

Read the entire post HERE.

(*Image courtesy of yellowcloud)

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