Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: 112th Congress

Congress continues to make progress in their efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), though the prospect for realizing any celebration of a new public law during the 112th Congress remains poor.

The Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), introduced on February 9, 2012, the final two bills that along with a series of others introduced in 2011, make up the framework of ESEA reauthorization. The Student Success Act (HR 3989) and, the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (HR 3990), address Title I and accountability and teacher professional development and evaluation respectively. The other ESEA reauthorization related bills introduced during this Congress include: Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act (HR 1891); the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act (HR 2445); and the Empowering Parents through Quality Charters Schools Act (HR 2218). Of these separate House bills, only one, HR 2218, received bi-partisan support in Committee and consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives. The charter schools legislation passed the House Education and the Workforce Committee by a vote of 34-5 and was adopted by the full U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 365-34.

Late in 2011, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee successfully marked up a comprehensive draft bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It was passed out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on October 20 by a final bipartisan vote of 15-7. This draft legislation is the product of years of efforts of the Senators and staff of the Committee and represents a bi-partisan effort spearheaded by Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Enzi (R-WY). The legislation offers broad changes to the underlying “No Child Left Behind” law in the area of adequate yearly progress and includes new language on other provisions of interest to psychology including social and emotional learning, teacher professional development, healthy schools and students, to name a few. It received rather mixed reviews and comments from the education policy community. The ability to maintain a strong bi-partisan base of support for this draft bill remains questionable.

If both the Senate and the House do not take up and pass a final proposal that the president will sign by the end of this Congress, then the process will begin anew in the 113th Congress.

In crafting APA’s recommendations for ESEA reauthorization, Education GRO brought together interested parties from all directorates within APA to develop a comprehensive set of changes to the law. Because the start of the 112th Congress brought in new leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, Education GRO sought to educate Members of Congress about psychology and its role in teaching and learning.

Education GRO will continue to monitor progress on the ESEA, as well as work in close partnership with PI GRO, Science and Practice GROs to advance psychology throughout the process. As we keep abreast of legislative activity, Education GRO will continue to provide comment and suggestions on bills and amendments. Further, Education GRO will review and revise APA’s ESEA current recommendations. For example, Education GRO will work in partnership with Public Interest GRO, under PI’s leadership, to further strengthen APA’s recommendations on bullying prevention.

APA’s recommendations cover topics related to teacher professional development, teaching skills, school climate and safe schools including violence directed toward teachers, bullying prevention, expanded school mental health, gifted and talented education, English language acquisition, to name a few. For further information, please visit Education Government Relations Office website.