#StopESEA? Conservative Blogger Who May Have Helped Derail ESEA Has New Qualms
Remember Christel Swasey, the conservative blogger and English teacher, whose viral blog post seems to have helped put the brakes (temporarily) on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the U.S. House of Representatives back in February?
Well, she's not much happier with the latest version of the legislation, a bipartisan, bicameral deal negotiated by Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., largely behind the scenes, that sailed through a conference committee last week.
Back in February, when the House first attempted to pass its version of the bill, Swasey's beef was mostly with the policy. And her interpretation of the legislation was largely debunked in a fact check by the Daily Caller, a conservative media outlet. (For instance, a friend of Swasey's who analyzed the bill for her thought it included a mandate that states adopt the common-core standards. In fact, it did the opposite, according to a committee summary, making it clear that the feds needed to stay far, far away from encouraging states to adopt any particular set of standards, including common core.)
This time, Swasey's biggest concern seems to be the process, which she writes was "very fast and mostly in the dark." (To be clear, she's not a fan of the policy either.)
She feels like the bill was rushed through, and is concerned that it won't be released officially until Nov. 30, just a couple days before the House is likely to vote on it on Dec. 2.
The conference committee that passed the ESEA renewal deal last week didn't approve a full-fledged bill, although the members had extensive staff notes (and presumably, were briefed by the lawmakers and aides who put together the deal.) Those notes have not been released publicly. (We published some ESEA reauthorization language shortly after that appears to be the notes, or at least a late stage draft of the agreement.) The final bill will be out after Thanksgiving, and is expected on the floor of both chambers shortly after that.
Many lawmakers were cool with that processs, if the overwhelming vote to send ESEA to conference in the U.S. Senate and the collegial tone of the conference committee itself is any guide.
But Swasey commends Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, for speaking out against the proceedings on the Senate floor (At the time, Alexander told Lee the process would remain open.)
"Sen. Lee is my representative," Swasey said in an interview. "I voted for him. He should be looking at the final version [of the legislation] more than a couple days before it passes."
Swasey's latest blog post on the bill delves into these concerns. (It also contains what look to me like a few factual errors. For instance, she says the bill includes a new $250 million preschool program that would "hurt good preschools by pushing federal preschools on all." Actually $250 million, though a win for Murray, is a small sum in the scheme of things, so the program's reach won't be national. Plus, it would be voluntary for states, and would dole out grants to organizations, not fund federal preschools. Swasey said in an interview she got her information on the program from Lee's floor speech.)
Over the past few days, Swasey has tweeted quite a bit about what she sees as a lack of transparency. Another blogger agreed, calling on new House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan to put the bill on ice for sixty days, giving folks time to review it. (That would be an unusually long time frame by congressional standards.)
Now, of course, there is a twitter campaign, with a hashtag, #STOPESEA. Here are some sample tweets:
So will all this be enough to derail ESEA yet again? Probably not. It's a lot harder to stop a bipartisan bill than it is one than one that was only ever going to be supported by Republicans. But the social media campaign by Swasey and others could cause a few headaches for Republican leaders, especially in the House.
Clarification: I originally called Swasey a former teacher. She wrote me to say she's back in the classroom this school year. The post has been updated to reflect that.