- Speaking at the District of Columbia's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated that a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would need an expansion of pre-K and strong federal oversight of states.
- Aside from those aspects, Duncan was generally positive regarding a bipartisan draft proposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who serves as the Senate education committee's chairman, and Patty Murray (D-WA).
- Responding to criticism of the Obama administration's heavy federal involvement in U.S. education, Duncan said that the amassing of federal power in education was never the intention, but was the result of being in "a void of Congress' dysfunction."
The Alexander-Murray bill is set to go before the education committee on April 14, with a vote before the Senate expected before Memorial Day, the Washington Post reports, and Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing ESEA into law. The pending reauthorization would be the first since it was last rewritten as No Child Left Behind in 2002, under President George W. Bush.
Duncan's words aren't likely to sit well with many critics of the current administration's approach to education. To qualify for the $4.3 billion in Race To The Top grants or to be waived from unattainable No Child Left Behind requirements, states have had to adopt measures like test-based teacher evaluations and the Common Core State Standards. Such moves have prompted many to claim federal overreach, and as long as the existing version of ESEA remained in place, the ability to push those qualifications remained — a detail that likely hasn't helped matters.
As justification for the administration's approach, Duncan highlighted higher-than-ever high school graduation rates, as well as African-American and Latino dropout rates that have largely been halved, stating that federal oversight made those accomplishments possible.
Though he stressed that an ESEA reauthorization has been sorely needed for the last six years, the question remains: If the Alexander-Murray bill makes it to the president's desk with more control given back to states, will it still be praised by the administration as a bipartisan accomplishment?