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Slim Hope for ESEA Reauthorization, Say Education ‘Insiders’

By Lauren Camera — August 14, 2014 2 min read
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The Elementary and Secondary Education Act will never be reauthorized. At least that’s what 20 percent of education “insiders” surveyed by a Washington consulting group think.

The new survey released Thursday by Whiteboard Advisors found that 72 percent of a small group of key education influentials agreed that, at the very least, Congress won’t update the federal education law until after December 2015.

“We are only six years behind,” mocked one respondent. “What’s the rush now?”

The report is based on an anonymous survey of 50 to 75 “key education influentials,” including policymakers, thought leaders, and association heads.

The education thought-leaders surveyed saw much higher prospects for lawmakers reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. While none believed it would be accomplished by this December, 32 percent said it may be completed by December 2015.

Those opinions likely stem from the movement on higher education legislation in both chambers. The House passed three small bipartisan higher education bills before lawmakers left for summer recess, and Senate Democrats are readying to introduce a reauthorization bill sometime this fall, based largely on the discussion draft it unveiled in June.

Within the higher education space specifically, the education wonks said that year‐round Pell Grants, federal tuition assistance for students from low- and middle-income families, are the most likely to be signed into law. That’s not a surprising finding since the chairmen of both the House and Senate education committees included that proposal in their Higher Education Act reauthorization blueprints.

Overall, however, 86 percent of the education experts disapprove of how Congress is handling education.

The group surveyed also had a bevy of opinions on the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. While Duncan earned a higher job approval rating that the White House, respondents largely agreed that his “policies remain controversial":

  • 36 percent approve of the Obama administration’s handling of education;
  • 42 percent approve of Duncan’s job performance overall;
  • 44 percent approve of Duncan’s efforts related to higher education; and
  • 36 percent approve of Duncan’s efforts related to K‐12 policy.

Those numbers generally reflect education policies that the education professionals termed ineffective.

For example, almost 80 percent of the education insiders do not think that the department’s 50‐state teacher equity strategy will have any more impact on the equitable distribution of teachers than past federal efforts. The Education Department announced the equity plan last November, and it’s set to eventually include technical assistance for states and the publication of state educator-equity profiles.

Said one snarky commenter: “This will accomplish nothing. Were I an Ed Week editor, my only challenge in reviewing an article on this subject would be deciding whether to use ‘gauzy’ or ‘pablum’ in the title.”

We’ll take that into consideration ...