And now the Senate steps up to the plate

Yesterday I reported on the first House of Representatives vote on the No Child Left Behind reauthorization, and the House Republicans’ strategy of breaking down the reauthorization into several smaller bills. (The first bill, which made it easier for charter schools to apply for federal money, passed with strong bipartisan support.)

I also chided the Senate for taking so long to act on an issue that’s becoming increasingly urgent as NCLB deadlines approach, and the Secretary of Education seems to be rewriting the law on his own.

Well, Senate Republicans have now announced that they will begin introducing their own “piecemeal” bills. I’ll talk about the details of these proposals in future posts. For now let me just note that one of the bills would, to quote Education Week, “‘clarify'” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s waiver authority.”

As the article continues: “Secretary Duncan announced this summer that he would offer states flexibility on parts of the ESEA law, in exchange for the states embracing certain education reform priorities. The waiver rules are expected to be unveiled this month.

At a briefing on Capitol Hill, Sen. [and former Education Secretary Lamar] Alexander said that he supports the secretary granting waivers from certain requirements of the NCLB law ‘based on what states have asked for.’ But he doesn’t want to see the secretary spell out for states what they have to do in areas such as teacher evaluation.

‘If by doing waivers, the secretary tries to do through waivers what he can’t do through the Congress, I would object to that,’ Sen. Alexander said. ‘If he’s trying to recognize that states have really good programs that enhance student achievement, I think that’s fine.'”

As the House vote demonstrates, there’s considerable consensus about how NCLB should be reauthorized — and reformed. I think the country would welcome a genuinely bipartisan reform effort right now. Let’s hope we’re finally seeing a breakthrough.

Here’s a link to the article.

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