The debate on what role the federal government should play in state and local levels regarding education continues to be a debate.
As Congress examines the reauthorization of the Education and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
“Congress needs to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as soon as possible, providing all schools and students with relief from the broken, outdated components of current law,” said Chris Richardson, Northfield Public Schools superintendent from Northfield, Minn., at a House education committee hearing Tuesday.
ESEA provides federal funding for elementary and secondary education.
The latest ESEA reauthorization is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). But it expired five years ago and still acts as law without a revision.
Before NCLB, states used different ways to keep track of graduation rates making it hard to measure how many students were actually graduating high school on time.
“If the states had been doing its job, the federal government wouldn’t have had to step in,” said Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., at the hearing. But he said he does agree the reauthorization of ESEA is important.
Therefore, the Department of Education set federal requirements for each state and local school district. Some of the requirements include testing standards. Schools must publicly report adequate yearly progress or AYP.
But now, the department has granted NCLB waivers to some states that allow flexibility from federal requirements, such as AYP. Thirty-four states have been approved and 11 are under review.
The waivers allow states to reform its education system with academic goals that fit its structure. But in return, states must also adopt some new standards under the waiver. Among the standards are adopting college- and career-ready expectations and teacher- and principal-evaluation systems.
But Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said these waivers aren’t the key to fixing, what some call, a broken education system.
“As more states adopt the administration’s waivers, my concerns grow,” said Kline at the hearing. “These waivers are a short-term fix to a long-term problem, and leave states and school districts tied to a failing law.”
At the hearing, members heard from witnesses’ hailing from the education field on what they thought the federal government’s role should be at state and local levels.
“Basic parameters should be set but states should further refine those parameters,” said John White, Louisiana state superintendent of education.
The meeting adjourned without a definitive answer as to what the federal government role should be. The reauthorization of ESEA will likely be an uphill battle.
—By Brina Monterroza, Medill News Service