January 12th, 2012
On January 6, House Republicans, in what was widely viewed as a “go it alone” approach, unveiled draft legislation outlining their ideas for reauthorizing key portions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). The two bills released by Minnesota Republican John Kline, Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, deal with the most controversial parts of the ESEA: (1) accountability and (2) teacher preparation. The House Committee has already approved three bills dealing with other aspects of the ESEA, including: HR 1891, repealing a number of unfunded or “duplicative” ESEA programs (see Federal Relations Update, March 26, 2011); HR 2445, regarding state and local flexibility; and HR 2218, dealing with charter schools. HR 2218 is the only measure to pass on the House floor, with bi-partisan support.
Of particular interest to the CSU, Kline’s “Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act” bears some similarities to the approach taken in the Obama Administration’s ESEA blueprint, as well as the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee’s reauthorization bill. All three would consolidate several teacher preparation programs into a new “Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant” program, with funds going mostly to states or Local Education Agencies (LEAs). Like the Administration plan, but unlike the Senate proposal, the House bill would eliminate key parts of Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA), including the Teacher Quality Partnerships (TQP) grant program. The House bill, meanwhile, would scrap the existing federal requirement that teachers meet a national “highly qualified” standard, and would mandate teacher evaluations, at least partially based on student achievement, at either the state or LEA level.
It remains unclear when or if the latest House bills will move forward. In his press release introducing the new bills, Chairman Kline was clear that they were merely working drafts and Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), the committee’s Ranking Democratic Member, strongly denounced the partisan approach to reauthorization, calling it “the end to NCLB reform in this Congress.” Meanwhile, Senate reauthorization attempts also appear mired in partisan deadlock, despite the HELP committee’s marking up of legislation in a relatively collegial manner in October (see Federal Relations Update, October 27, 2011). With a Congressional overhaul long overdue and nettlesome deadlines looming, the Administration has begun to issue waivers to states regarding compliance with the current NCLB Act in exchange for education reforms it has prioritized.
On a related front, the Department of Education next week will hold the first of three rounds of negotiations to revise regulations on Teacher Preparation and TEACH Grant programs. The negotiations will focus primarily on regulations governing the assessment of teacher preparation programs and the service and repayment obligations for participants in the TEACH Grant program. However, it appears that the Department may use the sessions to try revamp the TEACH Grant program to more closely mirror the Administration’s proposed Presidential Teaching Fellows program. Negotiators include the CSU’s Beverly Young, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Teacher Education and Public School Programs, who will be a primary negotiator representing Hispanic-Serving Institutions. A roadmap for the Department’s priorities in negotiated rulemaking can be found in the Obama Administration’s Plan for Teacher Education Reform and Improvement.