Urging Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—and seeking sponsors for a bill to shield local school board control from federal intrusion —are key initiatives of NSBA this year.
That was the message delivered by Reginald Felton, NSBA’s assistant executive director for congressional relations, at a Monday policy briefing at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C.
When school leaders visit Capitol Hill this week to meet with lawmakers, they need to emphasize the importance of putting the ESEA reauthorization back on track, he told conference attendees.
“They need to know how intensely you want to move the bill forward,” Felton said. “You have to give them a reason to help them get moving.”
In response to intense criticism over the use of sanctions, as well as other flaws, in the No Child Left Behind Act—the last reauthorization of ESEA—the U.S. Department of Education has responded with waivers to ease some of the excesses of the law. But that’s not enough, Felton insisted.
“We don’t want a quick fix. We don’t want reauthorization to go away [as a priority]. We need a bill that addresses what we need done so the law is more effective.”
At least one audience member expressed frustration with lawmakers, who offer their support yet have repeatedly failed to advance a reauthorization bill to a vote. Felton acknowledged the problem but said that, if school board members don’t make their voices heard, lawmakers certainly will put reauthorization on the backburner.
But when school leaders are face-to-face with lawmakers, he warned, they should not settle for a general statement of support—what’s needed is a specific commitment, whether it’s a promise to co-sponsor legislation or lobby fellow lawmakers to support action.
“If they say, ‘I’m with you,’ then define what ‘I’m with you’ means,” he said.
Meanwhile, Felton also encouraged school leaders to seek co-sponsors for NSBA’s new legislative proposal to protect local school district governance from unnecessary and counter‐productive federal intrusion from the federal education department.
The bill would require the Education Department to establish that new regulations, grant requirements, and other regulatory material is consistent with the intent of federal law and are “educationally, operationally, and financial supportable at the local level.”
The bill is a response to the Obama administration’s increasing practice to guide local and state education policy by tying access to federal funds to new rules and regulations designed to advanced administration policies—and not based on federal legislation that, at least, is more subject to public and legislative deliberation.
“We don’t want local school board authority to continue to be eroded because of what’s happening at the federal level.”