The National PTA found much to cheer about in President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, but the organization expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was not addressed in the president's remarks.
This year, National PTA wants Congress to take bipartisan action to address changes to the law governing the federal role in public education. The organization is especially interested in promoting meaningful family engagement via federal mandate.
"Although administrative regulatory relief provided to states through the ESEA flexibility program is addressing some flaws of the law, it is not an acceptable substitute for bipartisan legislative action on comprehensive reauthorization," the PTA says in a statement released Feb. 13, one day after the president's speech.
In its Executive Summary of the 2013 Public Policy Agenda that National PTA plans to push this year, the organization says reauthorization remains "a top goal for National PTA, including improvements that prioritize capacity building for the implementation of systemic and sustainable family engagement practices that increase student achievement. In addition, PTA is fighting for improvements to ESEA-NCLB, including access to a well-rounded curricula, equity protections for disadvantaged populations, and accountability to parents and the community."
"Despite bipartisan consensus on the importance of family engagement in education, there remains no central mechanism to translate federal family engagement policies into general practice in states and local communities. Thus, there is little evidence that states, districts, and schools are implementing ESEA-NCLB's family engagement provisions to meaningfully engage families in the education of their children," the PTA writes in its full 2013 Public Policy Agenda report.
Otherwise, the organization praised Obama's address for its emphasis on important matters of education—including mitigating the impact of sequestration on education, ensuring school safety, providing early-childhood education, helping students become college- and career-ready and engaging men in the lives of children.
Among the ways PTA supports the president's positions on education:
- On sequestration: The organization says "Congress must acknowledge that sequestration is a problem, not a solution; a mistake that would decimate public education and derail any hope of long-term, sustained economic well-being and growth."
- On ensuring school safety: The organization "urges Congress to enact the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013 and other bipartisan solutions to prevent gun violence."
- On providing early-childhood education: The PTA says that it "supports making quality child care and preschool programs affordable and accessible through federal and state incentives."
- On helping students become college- and career-ready: The PTA is committed to "working with Congress to increase coordination in the implementation of ESEA-No Child Left Behind, ensuring that all students graduate college- and career-ready, and that family engagement remains a fundamental principle in education."
- On engaging men in their children's lives: Last weekend, the National PTA held a male engagement conference intended to increase the involvement of men in their children's and grandchildren's lives.
The PTA's full reaction to the president's speech is available here.
Education Week writer Alyson Klein covered other organizations' reaction to the president's speech in her article, "Obama Urges Big Preschool Expansion in State of the Union Speech."