A New ESEA without Civil Rights Groups' Support? Soulless and Spineless.

Lauren Camera  of PoliticsK-12 describes the state of play on the Every Child Achieves Act as the House and Senate try to reconcile philosophically-irreconcilable versions of this overhaul of NCLB:
Chief among those differences is how to beef up accountability in a way that appeases the concerns of Democrats and the civil rights communities that the end result must include stronger federal guardrails for the most disadvantaged students, while at the same time ensuring the small federal footprint that Republicans are adamant about.
I’m too harsh. There is certainly enough latitude to come up with a bill that contains mandates for state intervention in underperforming schools while backing off on NCLB’s Big Foot.  In other words, a bill that President Obama will sign and at least moderate Republicans can support.

But the most important element for the credibility of the bill is the support of America’s major civil rights groups.  Lest we forget, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was signed into law in 1965 as a civil rights law that focused on education equity issues. A reauthorization of ESEA without the backing of civil rights groups is soulless: a spineless edifice, a soap bubble.

And, in order to have that solid imprimatur of credibility by civil rights groups, the final version handed to President Obama must include some degree of federal authority, something like the Murphy Amendment which, in spite of furious lobbying by NEA, garnered the support of forty-two gutsy Democratic senators.

(Talk about teacher union irrelevance. Or talk about the expanding bond between Republicans and NEA, mostly based on the seductive attraction of local control. Better, just see Jonathan Chait and Maggie Severns. Or read NEA's warning to Senators "to VOTE NO on amendment 2241 offered by Senators Murphy (D-CT)" because "votes associated with this amendment will be included in NEA’s Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress.")

Last week a long and illustrious list of civil rights groups, under the umbrella of The Leadership Conference, wrote a letter to legislators explaining that "the bill falls short" because it fails to include mandates that "states  must be required to identify schools where all students or groups of students are not meeting goals and to intervene in ways that raise achievement for students not meeting state standards."  Without these interventions, "we do not have confidence that the law would be faithfully implemented or that the interests of our nation’s most vulnerable students would be protected.  The hard-learned lesson of the civil rights community over decades has shown that a strong federal role is crucial to protecting the interests of educationally underserved students."

Let's hope our legislators listen to the voices that count.

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