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School Superintendents' Association Pushes Congress on NCLB Rewrite

In an unprecedented move by the nation's public school superintendents' groups at both the state and national level, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, and 49 state affiliates sent a letter to members of Congress Monday urging them to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act, the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

"We cannot continue to ask our nation's schools and the students they serve to live under the approach offered by the administration's waivers," wrote  Daniel Domenech, executive director, in the letter dated April 6. "Congress alone can and should address the shortcomings of the current law and the waivers."

Education advocates send letters to lawmakers all the time, so why is this one notable?

Well, for starters, it's the first time AASA has wrangled this many of its state affiliates—which represent an incredibly diverse group of school system leaders—to sign on to one policy letter.

The AASA has affiliates in every state but Hawaii, and has two in North Carolina. And with the exception of California, all of its state affiliates signed on to the letter.

The push from the superintendents' organization comes at a precarious time for lawmakers trying to rewrite the federal K-12 law. A Republican-backed bill in the House is still stalled after being yanked from the floor amid dwindling GOP support for the measure. And after months of negotiating, education leaders in the Senate are set to unveil a bipartisan bill this week (Politics K-12 first reported on that late last week) and begin marking up the bill next week, a delicate process that's sure to test the politicking skills of both parties.

With so much uncertainty still surrounding the legislative process and an increasingly clogged congressional calendar leading into the appropriations season, the AASA letter is a strong reminder to lawmakers that this is a priority for almost every school system in the country.

"AASA as well as our affiliates nationwide are urging Congress to move forward with the very critical work of reauthorizing ESEA," Domenech wrote. "We need legislation that supports state and local innovations that strike the appropriate balance between federal government authority, and state and local autonomy."

The AASA backs the conservative House bill, mainly from the standpoint that it's the best way to get the bill to conference. Its letter emphasizes that the forthcoming Senate bill "will make improvements" on it. Notably, the organization has opposed the NCLB law since it was first introduced in Congress back in 2001, citing what it views as the law's federal overreach, punitive measures, and unworkable mandates and requirements.

"ESEA reauthorization represents an opportunity to breathe new life into federal education policy, incorporating the latest research and experience to increase academic achievement and decrease achievement gaps," Domenech wrote.

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