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ESEA Tremors

Representatives of school administrators have put Congress on notice that, barring a major rewrite, they will oppose the overhaul of federal K-12 law now nearing completion on Capitol Hill.

"[The bill] as we understand its progress in conference has three and possibly four major flaws," the American Association of School Administrators wrote in a Nov. 8 letter to lawmakers.

A key complaint is that the legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would assert "federal supremacy" in areas that the AASA suggests should be state and local responsibilities.

"Both the House and Senate versions wrest control over both evaluation of schools and accountability of professionals from the states," the letter said. "Both ... also establish federal supremacy in setting teacher qualifications."

The letter argues that the legislation does not improve targeting of aid to high-poverty schools, and laments that Congress may exclude language from the Senate bill for "full funding" of special education.

In September, the National Conference of State Legislatures came out against the bill in a strongly worded letter that also warned against federal encroachment.

The latest missive is no surprise in Congress, according to David Schnittger, a spokesman for Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

"Most of the conference leaders warned that as this bipartisan bill moves toward completion, you're going to hear more and more gnashing of teeth within the education establishment," he said. "It's a sign that lobbyists now realize these bipartisan reforms are really going to happen."

"The bill," he said, " shifts power and authority out of Washington."

He suggested that the letter implies "they'd rather keep millions of children trapped in failing schools than be held accountable for improving student achievement."

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 21, Issue 11, Page 24

Published in Print: November 14, 2001, as Federal File

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