Weeks ago, we reported U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s threats to waive parts of the outdated No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) if Congress does not reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) before the start of the next school year.
Since then, members of Congress have questioned Duncan’s assertion and his right to grant waivers to states in exchange for a commitment to follow initiatives that he champions. Rep. John Kline (MN), Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, disapproved of Duncan’s actions and requested more information on Duncan’s plan.
Secretary Duncan provided a response this week. In his letter to Rep. Kline and Rep. Hunter, Duncan explained that any instance of overriding the current system would provide only a temporary fix until the House completes reauthorization of ESEA. Duncan wrote that “I am convinced that current law increasingly is discouraging [states] from implementing important State and locally developed reforms and other innovations to the detriment of students.” He also explained that ESEA was due for reauthorization in 2007, and the Department of Education must move forward with more innovative options for education reform that did not exist at the time that NCLB was enacted.
While Duncan’s letter described his reasons for issuing waivers, he did not provide details on the waiver plan, such as when waivers would be reviewed or enacted. He did mention that state and local input will be considered.
After receiving Duncan’s response, Rep. Kline’s spokesperson stated that “It is disappointing the secretary continues to elude questions about his plan… Instead of touting murky alternatives, the secretary should lend his support to the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ongoing efforts to advance targeted education legislation.”
Today, the Committee expects to release its third in a series of five bills intended to reauthorize ESEA. Secretary Duncan has already stated disapproval of the third bill.
Read more about the third bill from the House Committee, which aims to provide increased funding flexibility as part of ESEA reauthorization, in tomorrow’s Legislative Update from NASDCTEc.