Teacher-Equity Thrust Gets Chilly Republican Reception

By Alyson Klein — February 26, 2014 2 min read
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This post originally appeared on the Politics K -12 blog.

Key House Republicans have some pretty pointed questions for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when it comes to how his department plans to pursue a proposed “50-state strategy” aimed at pushing states to revamp their “highly qualified” teacher plans.

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., the top Republican on the subcommittee overseeing K-12 education, sent a letter to Duncan Tuesday expressing concerns over the department’s plan—floated in the story—to task the office for civil rights with ensuring that states ensure that kids in poverty have access to as many highly effective teachers as their more advantaged peers. (You can read the full letter, which was obtained by Education Week, below.)

Kline and Rokita support the goal of teacher quality, they explain, but they’re worried the department is going about this the wrong way. A federal “50-state strategy,” they say, could get in the way of local efforts to bolster teacher quality.

What’s more, “the department’s heavy-handed approach to federal enforcement ignores the effects of teacher equity efforts on state and local teacher transfer policies and retention efforts.”

Kline and Rokita want some information from Duncan—and they want to see it before the feds release their proposal.

First off? They want the department to explain why they think that OCR has the legal authority to enforce rules on teacher quality.

And they’re looking for specifics of just what will be included in the 50-state strategy. They want to know what format the proposal will come in, and what the process for rolling it out will be, including a timeframe for implementation.

They’re interested in any feedback the department has gotten from stakeholders (presumably including groups representing teachers, school board members, and state chiefs). They want to know how the department is going to incorporate that feedback into its final teacher equity plan.

The letter is just the latest instance of congressional skepticism of Duncan, who seems to have stretched his executive muscles more than any previous education secretary. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House education committee, recently sounded the alarm bells on the department’s waiver strategy, saying some state plans could let schools off the hook for improving progress for disadvantaged kids.

But Miller, for one, is on board with the general idea of a 50-state teacher equity strategy. In a recent interview, he said he’d like the department to “get on with it” already.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.