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House to Start Hearings Next Week on ESEA Rewrite

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is getting kicked into high gear with the announcement today that the House will start holding hearings next Wednesday, with the first meeting focused on charter schools.

In a joint statement, the top Democrats and Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee said they were launching a "bipartisan, open, and transparent effort to rewrite No Child Left Behind," the current version of the ESEA.

Of course, take note that this is a bipartisan group in the House; the Senate has been mum. But given the failure so far to get passage of health-care reform--a top domestic priority for the Obama administration--many have hoped the ESEA would provide an opportunity for bipartisan support, and a success for President Obama.

Here's the complete statement from Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the committee; John Kline, R-Minn., the senior Republican on the committee; Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich., the chairman of the subcommittee on elementary and secondary education; and Michael N. Castle, R-Del., the senior Republican on that subcommittee:

"Today, we're announcing a bipartisan, open, and transparent effort to rewrite No Child Left Behind--a law that we all agree is in need of major reform. It will start with a series of hearings in the coming weeks to explore the challenges and opportunities ahead as we work to ensure an excellent education is available to every student in America. With a real commitment to innovation, we invite all stakeholders who share our serious interest in building a world-class education system to e-mail us their suggestions."

The committee's first hearing will focus on charter schools and will be held on Feb. 24 at 10 a.m.

Comments and suggestions will be accepted until March 26. (This is probably a signal of the committee's timeline.) The e-mail address is [email protected]

Today's announcement comes just in the nick of time, according to former longtime Democratic aide Jack Jennings, who just yesterday was urging the Obama administration to get in the game or risk getting stuck with current NCLB rules for years to come. Probably with the Department of Education's blessing, Congress appears to be taking the lead for now.

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