March 19th, 2012
On February 28, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved, on party line votes, two bills to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). HR 3989, the Student Success Act, and HR 3990, the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, were somewhat modified from versions unveiled earlier by Chairman John Kline (R-MN). Of particular interest to the CSU, HR 3990, dealing with teacher preparation, was changed to allow Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) to compete at the state level for federal teacher preparation funding. The previous version of the bill had eliminated IHEs as potential lead entities for all competitive teacher preparation funding programs. In addition, the bill includes a modified version of language authored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and approved during a Senate committee markup of ESEA legislation. The House version, offered by Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI), would allow states to use federal money to establish non-accredited teacher or school leader preparation academies whose graduates would be deemed to posses the equivalent of a master’s degree. This provision has raised significant concerns among many higher education associations. The bills passed by the House committee retained provisions that would end the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) program in the Higher Education Act and to eliminate the national definition of “highly qualified teacher” from the ESEA and substitute a state or local metric requirement.
It is unclear when or even if either House bill will advance beyond committee consideration. In his opening statement, the committee’s Ranking Democrat, George Miller (D-Martinez) summed up Democratic frustration with the legislation: “The Republican bills dismantle equity in education for all students regardless of poverty, disability, or other challenges and send an unambiguous signal that college and career readiness is not a national priority. These bills send us in the wrong direction.” Senate efforts to reathorize the ESEA also appeared to be stalled in partisan disagreement.