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Community Groups to Senators: Move Forward on ESEA Reauthorization

A coalition of nearly 50 advocacy groups—ranging from the Coalition for Community Schools to the National PTA to the Rural School and Community Trust—are asking Congress to pretty, pretty please reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act sooner rather than later.

The groups, 47 in all, sent a letter to Senate leaders asking them to get moving already on ESEA reauthorization. (Well, OK, they put it a little nicer than that.) The waivers, which the Obama administration has granted to nearly every state, are no substitute for an honest-to-goodness reauthorization, they say.

Here's a snippet from the letter:

"As organizations advocating and creating opportunities for children and youth, we know that improving our education system is critical to the development and success of our nation's children. Every child deserves a high-quality education that prepares them for college, career, and life, but the current law-No Child Left Behind-has proven to fall short in this regard. 

"State waivers from the U.S. Department of Education are an inadequate substitute for a reauthorized ESEA that is already seven years overdue. We must show our nation's students, educators, families and communities that we care about our children both as students and as our next generation of leaders. ESEA must be reauthorized."

The letter goes onto explain that certain policy goals—such as encouraging community organizations to develop stronger partnerships with schools—can't really be accomplished through temporary waivers. They have to be done through an honest-to-goodness reauthorization.   

Why just send the letter to folks in the Senate? Well, the U.S. House of Representatives already passed its version of an ESEA renewal over the summer, with only Republican support. So now it's the Senate's turn.

These organizations aren't the only folks asking lawmakers to get going on ESEA. Earlier this year, a coalition of state and local government groups sent a similar letter to Senate leaders. So far, however, the push doesn't seem to have worked. The renewal has been pending pretty much forever (well, since 2007) but has been held up by intraparty—and interparty—politics.

And few folks expect the Senate's bill will get to the floor anytime next year, in part because the administration and education advocates are worried about the direction Congress might take it. However, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the author of the measure, has said that he would like to move it early next year. Much more here.   

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