As Senators on the education committee continue to debate the reauthorization -- rewrite -- of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), one thing is clear: the future vision for public education is drastically different among Democrats and Republicans.
Leading the republicans, Senator Alexander (R-TN) has repeatly called legislation put forth by the democrats as "creating a national school board". To which democrats have defended by saying that states are under no obligation to receive federal monies, and therefore would not be bound by federal requirements. A clear philosophical difference exists between the two political parties.
The debate about ESEA centers on the Strengthening America's Schools Act, legislation introduced by Senator Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the education committee which has the support of only democrats on the committee. Read CEC's response to SASA.
While the process to reauthorized ESEA origianlly started as a bi-partisan initiative, talks broke down over key issues such as the federal role in teacher evaluations and the design of the accountability system.
Today, the Committee voted against an amendment offered by Sen. Isakson which would have allowed for an unlimited number of students with disabilities to take an altrnate assessment based on alternate standards. CEC opposed this amendment as it would have resulted in the exclusion of many students with disabilities from the accountability system.
CEC commends Sen. Harkin for leading the oppositon to Sen. Isakson's amendment. As a leading adoctate for children with disabilities, Sen. Harkin eloquenlty explained the importance of having high expectations and challenging students with disabilities. Harkin stated, "For too long we've had a patronizing attitude toward children with disabilities." Harkin continued that we have to set up students with disabilities for success rather than precluding students with disabilities from receiving a regular high school diploma.
Debate will continue today, with a vote on the full bill expected later today.