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Strange Bedfellows: AFT, Education Trust Attack House ESEA Bill

The American Federation of Teachers and the Washington-based Education Trust, which advocates on behalf of disadvantaged students, have teamed up to run ads opposing the Student Success Act, a bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that could go to the House floor as early as this week.

The advertisement claims that the bill would "starve our schools and our children of the resources and supports they need," and that it "walks away from the expectation that all children be served well." Those references appear to point to the bill's failure to advance so-called college- and career-ready standards; its elimination of maintenance-of-effort provisions in the Title I program; and its undoing of a requirement for states to set the same test-performance targets for all groups of students.

Though the Education Trust and the AFT agree on those shortcomings, their team effort is still a bit of a surprise. For one thing, the groups have very different approaches to such issues as testing writ large. The AFT wants and end to ESEA's "excessive fixation on testing," while the Education Trust has tended to be supportive of the law's current annual-testing provisions.

In addition, the AFT plans to run radio ads focusing on the bill's requirement for all districts to set up teacher-evaluation systems based in part on student test scores. (Tellingly, the Education Trust did not join the union in that effort.)

Whether or not the federal government should mandate such factors remains a topic of debate among Republicans and the subject of a possible amendment that's being closely watched.

Oh, and the reported price tag of the AFT's portion of the efforts? In the six figures.

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