Slouching Toward Reauthorization

May 27, 2011 | By Thompson Education | Post a Comment

(This post was written by Andrew Brownstein, one of Thompson’s federal education policy editors, and originally appeared on Title I-Derland, Thompson’s blog on federal K-12 policy.) Although trumpeted as the passage of its first “education reform bill,” Wednesday’s vote by the House Education and Workforce Committee to pass H.R. 1891 likely means very little in the grand scheme of reauthorizing No Child Left Behind.

As Title I-Derland reported previously, the majority of the 43 NCLB programs that would be terminated under the bill have never been funded, were de-funded in previous years or were zeroed out in this year’s budget agreement.

With Congress hesitant to dig in to the real meat of NLCB, it is not surprising that this week brought the first of what doubtlessly will be many calls from education advocacy organizations to waive elements of the law. The 16-member Learning First Alliance — which includes the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of State Boards of Education and the National Education Association — asked ED Secretary Arne Duncan to “offer regulatory relief to schools who struggle with the demands of No Child Left Behind” if the law is not reauthorized prior to the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

In the May 24 letter, the alliance urged Duncan to “address the act’s current flaws that tie up scarce resources with unnecessary regulatory compliance, counterproductive sanctions and reporting that does little to contribute to student success.”

Also this week, the AASA released a study that is certain to underscore arguments that NCLB has put an undue strain on state and local resources.

Complaints about the underfunding of education are so ubiquitous that they lend themselves to parody. But it is hard to ignore the fact that states and school districts are being asked to do far more with fewer resources than which they’d become accustomed. According to a study of 1,011 AASA members from 49 states, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would cut 17,504 education jobs in the 2011-12 school year. The report estimated that a total of 227,000 education jobs will be on the chopping block during that period.

“The results of this survey illustrate that the continued economic recession at the state level, the cessation of emergency federal funding … and actual and anticipated funding cuts in federal FY11 and FY12 appropriations have created a perfect storm when it comes to staffing the nation’s public schools,” the report said.

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