Under the banner of “ESEA Now: Our Schoolchildren, Our Economy, and Our Future,” NSBA leaders outlined the past year’s legislative successes and upcoming issues at the opening session of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Sunday.
Pushing for a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will be the most critical action school board members will take this week in Washington, D.C., NSBA Associate Executive Director Michael A. Resnick told the more than 700 FRN participants attending the three-day meeting. Closely tied to that action is adequate funding for core federal programs including Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Educators have been working tirelessly for five years to get a new version of the now decade-old No Child Left Behind Act passed, and the House and Senate are finally moving toward passage of ESEA legislation in the respective chambers, NSBA President Mary Broderick said.
“Congress’ timing is particularly fortunate for us to make a mark on the process,” Broderick said. “While both bills make significant improvements over existing law, neither is perfect, and this stage of the legislative process is the ideal time to make those changes.”
Having successfully overcome proposals to make large-scale cuts in the education budget this year, FRN participants must be aware of initiatives such as the Budget Control Act, which would instill a 7.8 percent across-the-board cut in federal programs. Further, proposals within the ESEA reauthorization would create formulas for future program funds that do not take into account the increasing numbers of students living in poverty and students with special needs.
Resnick reminded attendees that national polls during this election year show that the majority of voters are largely ambivalent about whether their members continue to serve, and some 90 House representatives coming up for reelection for the first time. Keeping this in mind, school board members should push the importance of passing an ESEA reauthorization as a major achievement.
“Why shouldn’t they want to deliver for America’s children? Why shouldn’t they want to deliver for America’s future?” he asked.
Resnick also announced plans for the National School Boards Action Center, a 501-c4 organization, which will help further push NSBA’s advocacy agenda and allow for more targeted lobbying and endorsements. One of the center’s first issues will be promoting NSBA priorities and education issues for the 2012 campaigns.