Once again, Secretary Arne Duncan is calling for Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as No Child Left Behind, by the end the summer. During a visit to St. Paul with Senator Al Franken (D-MN) last week, Duncan called the law an “impediment” to academic success.
But he has been met with resistance from members of the House of Representatives, most notably Rep. John Kline (R-MN), who recently said that Duncan’s timeline is unrealistic.
Analysts who follow early education policy are watching to see whether fixes to the law could provide more opportunities for school districts and community providers to offer programs to children before they reach kindergarten, to put more attention on the need for full-day kindergarten, or to allow for more continuity between birth-to-5 programs and public schools. (The Early Education Initiative and many other national groups weighed in with ideas in a letter to Congress last year.)
Kline, Chairman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee, wants to rework ESEA through a series of bills that will be introduced in the House throughout the summer. The first of these bills, introduced to the House by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) in May and passed by the House Education & the Workforce committee, would eliminate 43 education programs in an effort to consolidate spending. Programs up for elimination that directly effect young children include the Even Start Family Literacy program and Early Reading First.
On the Senate side, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has been more optimistic about a timely ESEA reauthorization. Harkin still hopes to introduce a comprehensive reauthorization bill before Congress’s July recess.
The disparate approaches we’re seeing from the House and the Senate say little about what ESEA will look like when it is reauthorized. But they do tell us that the House and the Senate sides have yet to reach any consensus on how ESEA should be reauthorized-- which does not bode well for Duncan’s end-of-summer deadline.