President's Corner                    Page 39

Re-engaging Our Federal Efforts


 David Pennington

When President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act in January 2002, he outlined four broad principles for the legislation: stress accountability, trust parents, trust local people and spend more money on methods that work.


For those readers who were not superintendents in 2002, it is hard to describe the overwhelming level of support NCLB enjoyed. The bill, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, passed Congress with large majorities in both houses and strong support from both parties. In addition, the law was backed by every education advocacy organization in the nation except one — and that was AASA.

It’s impossible for most of us to understand the amount of pressure the White House, congressional leadership and other education advocacy groups put on then-AASA Executive Director Paul Houston and Associate Executive Director Bruce Hunter to support NCLB. To their credit, they refused to do so. Why? Because then, as today, it is the members who determine AASA’s positions on federal education policy, and AASA’s Federal Relations Committee was unanimous in its opposition to NCLB.

In a letter dated Nov. 8, 2001, Hunter notified Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who then chaired the House Education and the Workforce Committee, that AASA would not support the final conference report on HR1 (NCLB) for a variety of reasons, including:

  • “Both the House and Senate versions of the bill wrest control over both evaluation of schools and accountability of professionals from the states and federalize those crucial educational policies.”
  • “Asking teachers and principals to do more but not providing the funds needed to attract more qualified teachers and improved materials is simply wrong.”
  • “The leap to federalize the evaluation of schools and accountability for educators and establish teacher qualification requirements in schools that receive no federal funds is unwise and unwarranted.”

(You can read the full letter at http://aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/files/AASAoppositionLetter110801.pdf.)

Jan. 8 will mark the 13th anniversary of the signing of NCLB. Although the act certainly was not the best piece of education legislation written into law, it has been made worse by the failure of Congress to reauthorize the bill and fix the mistakes that were made in 2002. Instead, Congress has abandoned its responsibility and allowed President Obama to rewrite federal education policy through the waiver process.

During the past 13 years, AASA has been relentless in its efforts to push for reauthorization of NCLB and to restore the control of public education to the states and local boards of education. We are not alone. Today, AASA’s belief that NCLB is flawed federal policy is shared by a majority of teachers, administrators, school board members, top researchers and state legislators.

With a new Congress comes a new opportunity to move ESEA legislation through the process. We need superintendents across the country to re-engage in this effort, to redirect the anger that the public feels about federal involvement in its schools away from the administration and instead toward Congress, where it belongs. It is Congress who, through its failure to pass reauthorization, has turned over control of public education to the executive branch of the federal government.

We need reauthorization, and we need it this year. I hope I can count on you to let your voice be heard. Please visit AASA’s Legislative Action Center for resources and information: http://www.aasa.org/LegislativeActionCenter.aspx.




David Pennington is AASA president for 2014-15. E-mail: pennid@pcps.us. Twitter: @DavidPennid


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