In an announcement released by the U.S. Department of Education this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan threatened to take action if Congress does not reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) before next school year. Duncan expounded upon his announcement in a recent op-ed.
The Secretary reported that America’s students cannot afford to wait any longer for reform. Duncan wrote that, “While Congress works, state and local school districts are buckling under the law’s goals and mandates.” Schools are rapidly approaching the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) 2014 deadline to have all students meet proficiency goals in reading or mathematics; many schools are not on track to meet the requirements of the old law and will face futile sanctions as a result.
If Congress does not reauthorize ESEA by the fall, Duncan is prepared to take matters into his own hands. As the Secretary of Education, Duncan has the authority to waive certain aspects of the law, including the NCLB proficiency deadline. In exchange, participating states would agree to adopt Duncan’s other efforts, such as expanding charter schools and reconstituting poorly-performing schools.
Despite pressure from Duncan, Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate education committee, stated that Duncan’s decision is drastic. Rep. John Kline, Republican chairman of the House education committee, said of Duncan, “He’d like to get this done before they go back to school in September. We’re not going to do that.”