Sen. Harkin's ESEA reauthorization bill is good first step

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U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is a good first step that sensibly helps public schools help all kids and recognizes the need to do things differently, AFT president Randi Weingarten says.

"We're gratified that it provides more flexibility than the current law and offers more ways to fix, not reflexively close, schools," she says. "The bill requires a variety of measures to evaluate teachers, rather than making test scores the be-all and end-all. It also gives school districts time to implement the new Common Core-aligned tests before using the results to determine if schools need improvement interventions. Investments in early childhood education will help put our children on a solid path for success both in school and in life.

"While math, English and high school graduation are important, public education also needs to focus on art, music, social studies and the sciences so our children have a rewarding, enriching, well-rounded education. Finally, to make this work in the classroom—particularly with 48 percent of our students in low-income families or in Title I-eligible categories—we need to ensure that these programs and policies are adequately funded and supported.

"We share Sen. Harkin's commitment to move ESEA reauthorization through the congressional process rather than continue with the U.S. Department of Education's case-by-case waiver approach. While this bill includes many good reforms, it ironically leaves untouched and immunizes many of the problems we've seen in state programs that received Race to the Top waivers.

"Sen. Harkin is a fighter for what kids need to receive a high-quality education, and I'm pleased that he is using his last two years in the U.S. Senate to make a real difference in the lives of students. We will work with Sen. Harkin and others to support the good in the bill while pushing for modifications to ensure that students, teachers and schools get the programs, resources and tools they need to succeed." [AFT press release]

June 4, 2013