Beginning of End for ESEA Reauth?

If one talks to those on Maryland Avenue, there has been a relatively steadfast belief that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would be coming in the first half of 2010.  Staff have been busy at work on the planning pieces.  Most have been assuming that the framework developed for Race to the Top, particularly the four key pillars, would stand as the foundations of ESEA.  And they’ve even been talking about dropping legislation after the start of the new year, with a goal of completing reauthorization before the summer recess.

But then we ran into major public comment with RttT, delaying the release of the final RFP by a month or two.  We’re now facing a similar push on common core standards, with the full K-12 draft standards now expected by the end of 2009, and moving to the states for implementation by mid-2010.  Layer onto that i3 and other such pieces, and one has to ask if we have the stomach for ESEA reauthorization, with everything else, ed reform wise, that is happening.
Recent pieces of information seem to signal that the timetable for ESEA may now be pushed back.  Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (WA) introduced the LEARN Act, the logical successor to NCLB’s Reading First Initiative.  While LEARN could easily be folded into reauthorization, it is beginning the process as a stand-alone bill, and could become law well before NCLB is every replaced.
Today, U.S. Rep. George Miller (CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced the Graduation for All Act of 2009, an impressive piece of legislation that focuses on boosting high school graduation rates and improving the secondary school experience.  Some are even calling it the “S” component of ESEA.  The full description of the legislation can be found here.  While Graduation for All could be seen as the first component of ESEA to move forward, it is easily a signal that revamping NCLB may not be a major priority after all for the coming year, and the good chairman wants to move forward on one of the most pressing education concerns facing K-12, and an issue that is not directly addressed in RttT or i3.
But perhaps the most interesting news impacting ESEA is the headline delivered by Alexander Russo on his This Week in Education blog this morning.  According to Russo (and found here), Alice Cain is leaving the House Education and Labor Committee to join the Hope Street Group and lead its new teacher quality efforts.  While that is terrific news for Hope Street, it leaves a gaping hole on Chairman Miller’s committee staff.  Cain is the go-to staffer on all things K-12 and was seen by many as the quarterback for ESEA reauthorization.  Miller is clearly calling the shots on congressional reauth, and Cain was the person to run the plays for him.  It’ll be tough for Miller to fill her shoes, and quickly, as so many of the best congressional staffers have already moved to ED or the White House, and her departure may very well be a signal that reauthorization isn’t coming as quickly as many of us thought or hoped for.
Regardless, it is all still a guessing game.  But right now, that Magic 8 Ball is telling us “don’t count on it.”

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