Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, is expected to put a formal version of his draft bill rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka the No Child Left Behind Act) very soon. But so far, the bill has been met mostly with criticism, including from civil rights and business groups and the National Education Association.
So Kline must have been pretty happy when he got this largely supportive letter from a whole bunch of groups representing practioners, including the American Association of School Administrators, the Association of Education Service Agencies, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, the National Rural Education Association, and the National School Boards Association.
UPDATE: It's important to note that not all of the groups listed here are supportive of the legislation. NASSP, which represents secondary school principals, has major concerns, including what the organization sees as a diminished focus on professional development, and the role of principals as instructional leaders. NASSP wants to see reauthorization move forward but is much more supportive of a bill that was approved by the Senate education committee last fall.
The groups support further action on the draft, but have stopped short of actually endorsing it, which is a very Washington-ish thing to do. It generally means that folks have found much to like in a particular piece of legislation, but still have some major concerns that they want to see addressed before they pledge full support.
That seems to be more or less the case this time.
The draft legislation "respresents steps in the right direction" the group wrote. They're especially happy to see that Kline wants to scrap the law's signature yardstick, adequate yearly progress, get rid of the four School Improvement Grant models, and stop requiring districts to offer choice and free tutoring.
But the groups also have some concerns. They want to see changes to:
•The proposal to scrap maintenance of effort, which requires districts to keep up their spending at a certain level in order to tap federal funds. This could be a big sleeper issue in the debate over ESEA reauthorization since the National Governors Association put out a statement in favor of the change.
•Language that would expand private school authoirty over public funds. The groups think this could open the door to vouchers.
•Language keeping funding for federal programs at this year's levels, with increases tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). That's not enough new money to keep up with rising enrollment, the groups argue.
•The bill's ideas on Title II, the section of the law that deals with teacher quality. Kline wants to see only up to 10 percent of those funds used for class size reduction. (Right now, nearly 40 of it goes to that purpose.) That might not be enough, the groups argue.
•Language that would help grow the number of charter schools. The groups worry that could water down accountabilty for charters.
Why do these groups matter? Well, every member of Congress has school principals, school board members, and superintendents in their home district—and many will want to hear what those folks think of any legislation to renew the ESEA.