Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for November 16, 2006

Thought you might like to see a little "inside information" on the upcoming battle over the future of NCLB...

Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2006 11:02 AM

Subject: Outlook for ESEA Reauthorization in the 110th Congress



TO: State Presidents

State Executive Directors

FROM: Reg Weaver & John Wilson

DATE: November 16, 2006

RE: The Outlook for ESEA Reauthorization in the 110th Congress

We thought you would find the following talking points useful as you respond to inquiries from local affiliates, members, and the press about ESEA reauthorization.

The Outlook for ESEA Reauthorization in the 110th Congress:

Some Positive Movement but Gridlock Still Likely

· The fact that the Democrats will be the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate does not necessarily mean that NEA’s ESEA Positive Agenda will be enacted.

· Rep. George Miller (D-CA) will be the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. While Miller has been highly critical of the lack of funding for ESEA/NCLB and has criticized the Administration over several aspects of its implementation of the law, he was one of the four primary authors of NCLB in 2001 and remains largely supportive of its policies and provisions. Similarly, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who will be the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, holds the same position.

· There is no overall consensus among Democrats on NCLB. While Miller and Kennedy are on the supportive side, many others, including members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee—such as Rep. Andrews (D-NJ), Rep. Woolsey (D-CA), Rep. Wu (D-OR), and Rep. McCollum (D-MN)—have introduced their own bills or cosponsored bills supported by NEA that would make significant changes to the law. In the Senate, fewer Democrats have introduced legislation, but a key member of the HELP Committee, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), likely chair of the Education Subcommittee, has his own bill and has been vocal in calling for changes that we support in the law.

· Because of this division among Democrats, it is unlikely that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will move any bill that highlights and makes public such divisions. She will be focused on moving issues that unite Democrats.

· There is also no consensus among Republicans. Obviously the Administration is still a strong supporter of NCLB and its latest message is simple: “NCLB is working.” Many Republicans still support the Administration in this regard. However, this year has seen some Republicans across the political spectrum introduce their own bills to change the law.

· Even though the Democrats have taken control of the Senate, they will be nine seats short of the 60 votes needed to effectively move legislation against the threat of a filibuster.

· We also face continuing challenges with some of our traditional allies among civil rights and progressive groups who are more supportive of NCLB and have been critical of some of NEA’s positions. We are continuing conversations with them.

· The Congress is also behind on acting on other education legislation. Both the Higher Education Act and the Head Start program were supposed to have been reauthorized in 2003, but the Congress has not yet completed either. Since the 110th Congress will have to act on those, and they are ahead of NCLB in the “queue,” that could create delays in any ESEA action. However, Rep. Miller has already announced that “the first three priorities for the [Education and the Workforce] Committee will be to increase the national minimum wage, reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, and make college more affordable.”

· However, there are several favorable trends for NEA and our positions on ESEA:

· Many of the newly elected Democratic members of Congress criticized NCLB during their campaigns, which creates opportunities to lock in their support for our policies.

· Ownership of NCLB by Congress is rapidly declining. Since the passage of NCLB in 2001 (three election cycles ago), at least 123 House members who voted for final passage are no longer in the Congress (2 races as of this writing are too close to call), thus there are now no more than 258 members of the House who voted for its passage—and many of them have since supported changes. In the Senate, 25 of the 87 Senators who voted for NCLB will not be in the next Congress, leaving 62 Senators who voted for it, again with several now calling for changes.

· Republican members of Congress may be more likely to support significant changes to the law. Many conservatives supported NCLB only because it was a top priority for President Bush at the beginning of his presidency. Now that they are in the minority they may feel “liberated” to revert to their traditional position of opposing so much federal control over state and local educational policies. Indeed, there are currently several Republican introduced bills in the House by such members as Rep. Terry (NE), Rep. Young (AK), Rep. Moran (KS), and Rep. Kirk (IL). Support for these bills is likely to increase next year.

· President Bush’s proposal for changes to ESEA—which NEA opposes—will have virtually no chance for enactment under a Democratic House. The President has already made clear that he wants to expand the NCLB school choice provision to include private school vouchers for students in schools failing AYP, increase the number of high school grades in which mandated NCLB testing takes place, and expand the Teacher Incentive Fund merit pay program. It is virtually certain none of those will be supported.

· The recent trend for cuts to NCLB should end. Last year the Congress cut NCLB funding by over $1 billion. The pending House and Senate education appropriations bills for FY 07 would both cut NCLB by an additional $400-500 million. While huge spending increases will be difficult due to the large federal budget deficit and the fact that President Bush will still have to sign into law any spending bill, modest increases in key programs like Title I are possible.

· While final enactment of an ESEA reauthorization bill is still unlikely, there will be a lot of activity on it next year, including hearings, bill introductions, reports (including that of the Aspen Institute’s NCLB Commission), and possibly even the introduction of a reauthorization bill by education committee leaders. The changed political climate will facilitate laying the groundwork for inclusion of some elements of our positive agenda in a final bill, such as class size reduction, school modernization, and expanded teacher quality programs.

· Support for changes to NCLB from other organizations continues to grow. There are now 93 national organizations that have joined with NEA and signed on to the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB.

· Each year, as more schools fail AYP, more public pressure will mount on Congress for changes.

The bottom line is that while passage of ESEA reauthorization in the 110th Congress is unlikely, and at best uncertain, NEA, our affiliates, and members need to be very active in promoting our positive agenda:

Actions taken in the 110th Congress will lay the groundwork for any final action in the following Congress. Getting as many members of Congress locked in now to support our positions by sponsoring or cosponsoring our bills will continue to put pressure on Rep. Miller, Sen. Kennedy, and other supporters of the law. In addition, we need to pro-actively ensure that ESEA is on the issues agenda for the 2008 presidential election, and work to get as many potential presidential candidates to support our policies.