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Year Ends With Uncertainty: House May Vote on Education Jobs Today

As summer officially arrives and schools have closed, many questions about what the future holds remain unanswered. Funding from the federal government to support educators’ jobs remains uncertain but the latest word is that the House Rules Committee is discussing the process for a vote today on education jobs funding.   Please call or email your member of Congress and ask all your friends and colleagues to do the same.  Call 866-608-6355 or send an e-mail using this link. It will only take a couple of minutes of your time.

The possibility of reauthorization of ESEA before the end of this session consequently seems increasingly remote, particularly with the addition of the Gulf disaster into the mix, which should make the issue of dealing with an energy bill more compelling.

Although the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions has held a series of hearings on reauthorization, most pundits indicate there is no bill, and just below the surface lie many conflicting opinions. Recently Secretary Duncan and Melody Barnes, domestic policy advisor to President Obama, met with key House and Senate leaders from both parties to discuss the progress on reauthorization.  According to Alison Klein at EdWeek no specific commitments to a timeline were made.

In spite of the stalemate in Congress on reauthorization, the administration has made significant progress on implementing its agenda primarily through the vehicle of desperately needed stimulus money. States were required to pledge progress on certain areas of reform in order to get the money last year and these demands were made more specific by the requirements to compete for Race to the Top money. Secretary Duncan said “jump” and many state legislatures said “how high?” Connecticut legislative leaders, to their credit, worked to build a consensus by bringing stakeholder groups to the table. This was not the case in many states and laws were changed in support of controversial reforms such as merit pay and teacher evaluations heavily weighted on test scores — ostensibly to enhance their state’s competitiveness in the RTTT  competition.

There is growing dissent over many of the administration’s proposals as being either overly prescriptive in approach, or unsupported by research, or both.

Remember the Rhode Island disaster. The highly controversial firing of the entire staff at Central Falls High School, which was praised by both President Obama and Secretary Duncan, was reversed through a mediation process in May. All the teachers were rehired. Ultimately the collective bargaining process worked as was described in a joint statement issued by the district and the union.

“Both the school district and the union agree that, while this has been a difficult process for everyone involved, the negotiations resulted in a newfound appreciation for shared responsibility, and a solid commitment to bring lasting solutions that will improve teaching and learning at Central Falls High School.”

In the spirit of “things could always be worse”, read this lament of one Florida teacher talking about his “Worst Year in the Classroom.” The letter was written to Diane Ravitch and the teacher allowed the Washington Post to publish it on their education blog, The Answer Sheet.

Teachers would be well advised to ensure that their batteries are fully charged over the summer and return ready to face a huge backlog of unresolved issues. Better yet, stay tuned throughout the summer.

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