Federal File

July 10, 2002 1 min read

Decoding ESEA

How easy things would have been if only Congress had handed out magic decoder rings when it passed the 1,100-page tome known as the “No Child Left Behind Act” of 2001.

Lacking such assistance, top brass from the National Education Association will spend the summer launching an unprecedented effort to educate state affiliates on the complexities of the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act, said Kathleen Lyons, a union spokeswoman.

The new law overhauls federal funding formulas, sets new school accountability rules, and mandates annual math and reading testing in grades 3-8, among other requirements.

To help its members get a grip on the new demands, the NEA will host three regional meetings over the next few months to brief leaders of the 2.6 million-member organization, Ms. Lyons said. All members are currently receiving e-mail alerts on the subject and have access to an ESEA telephone hotline.

In addition, one Washington-based union staff member will be solely responsible for aiding members during the implementation of the ESEA, Ms. Lyons said. The tutorials are “a sweeping change” in member services, she said, made necessary because “the changes in education law have never been so massive.”

But a union critic contends that the summer school sessions are really a way for the NEA to shape the outcome of the law at the state level.

The ESEA “contained a number of provisions not exactly to the liking of the National Education Association,” Mike Antonucci, the director of the private, for-profit Education Intelligence Agency, recently wrote in his weekly newsletter. “NEA is mounting an unprecedented effort to coordinate strategy in all 50 states to modify ESEA and to ensure that its regulations are developed and interpreted to the union’s desires.”

“He got it wrong,” Ms. Lyons maintained. “We’re not trying to negate the law.”

—Julie Blair

A version of this article appeared in the July 10, 2002 edition of Education Week