Unions Call for ESEA Reauthorization and Fix


The two largest teachers unions in the United States have joined forces with eight other major education groups in their push for the Senate to vote on a bill that would revise the federal education law No Child Left Behind, which expired years ago.

While the bipartisan bill received unanimous support two months ago from the Senate’s education committee, floor debate repeatedly became pushed aside by other issues such as legislation pertaining to President Obama’s trade agenda.

“Once again, a group of politicians has said we really, really care about kids, except that they’re not the most important thing that we’re going to do this week,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. “It’s time that kids are the most important thing that can come before the Senate.”

Eskelsen Garcia went on to say that it would be a mistake for Congress not to act soon, resulting in an “absolutely failed education policy.”

The law, enacted in 2002, required schools across the country to meet test-score goals each year or be faced with a number of consequences.  However, schools were increasingly unable to meet the goals, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan began to offer waivers that gave states a way out of meeting the strict provisions, so long as they agreed to adopt policies the Obama Administration asked them to, which included teacher evaluations based partially on test scores.

Critics of the law come from both sides, believing it to be too focused on standardized testing and offering the federal government too much control over local education issues, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.

Despite all this, the law has continued to survive, as Congress has been unable to agree on an alternative.  However, the current Senate bill is seen by many as way to enact change, as it would shift responsibility from the federal government to individual states, reports David Nagel for The Journal.

“We’re tired of being patient,” said G.A. Bouie, a Kansas principal who serves as president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in remarks prepared for Tuesday’s news conference.

The earliest the bill, referred to as the Every Child Achieves Act, could reach the floor is after the July 4th break, although the longer it is put off the more likely it becomes that it will pushed aside in favor of other issues such as budget politics and the 2016 presidential election.

Once the bill passes the Senate, it will make its way to the House, which will either pass the bill or create its own version.  From there, President Obama will need to sign and approve the final document.

“We’re pleased that both houses of Congress are finally moving on this, and we think there’s real energy on this,” said Thomas Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association. “I think there’s a lot of momentum behind it.”