NAICU Washington Update

GREAT amendment tweaked but not eliminated from ESEA

November 04, 2011

The Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions has passed its reauthorization of the bill formerly known as No Child Left Behind Act with bipartisan support.  However, it wasn't smooth sailing through the committee, and it looks like more heavy weather ahead as the reauthorization moves to the Senate floor.  Higher education groups are watching closely as the machinations on teacher education unfold.

On October 20, the Senate HELP Committee passed its reauthorization of No Child Left Behind Act - also leaving behind that moniker, and going back to the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The bill is co-sponsored by HELP chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).  

One of the bipartisan amendments accepted during committee mark up was a slightly modified version of S. 1250, sponsored by Mike Bennett (D-Colo.), which NAICU and the higher education community oppose.  This amendment would allow states to use one percent of its grant money under ESEA Title II to charter teacher preparation academies.  The academies would train teachers and principals outside of higher education, and states would be required to treat their certificates as equivalent to master's degrees when hiring or promoting teachers.  The amendment as accepted would require the academies to partner with local schools, and to include clinical practice.

While these changes are improvements, the overall approach of the Bennet amendment - having the federal government mandate degree equivalencies for non-academic institutions - remains highly problematic.  As proposed, the academies would not be required to undergo accreditation, and couldn't require faculty to hold advanced degrees or specify course credit requirements.  Also, states would have to give the academies' students the same state aid as students in college teacher preparation programs.

The next steps for the ESEA bill in the Senate is for committee staff to make conforming and technical corrections, then draft a managers' bill with those changes and, finally, wait for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to give the bill floor time.  Harkin would like to have it on the floor before the end of the year - allowing Harkin to circumvent Secretary Duncan's moves toward state waivers on NCLB requirements.  When NCLB was under consideration in 2001, it was on the floor for five weeks, so it's uncertain if there will be action on the bill before 2012.


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