House Democrats Feel Left Out in the Cold in ESEA Reauthorization

For several weeks now, legislators on Capitol Hill have been holding hearings, writing draft legislation and meeting with parents, educators and advocates in order to move forward on rewriting the federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. Though the Senate has made an effort to ensure voices from both sides of the aisle have at least been heard, it is not evident that the House members are doing the same. Representative John Kline, the Republican head of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and author of its bill, is shunning bipartisanship and moving ahead on a draft without holding any hearings. As the Washington Post reports, Rep. Kline’s actions reveal the fissure between House Democrats and Republicans. Representative Bobby Scott, a Democrat, has taken matters into his own hands by holding a hearing this past Thursday:
“There is broad agreement that No Child Left Behind is outdated,” Scott said in a statement. “But rather than building upon the advancements we’ve made since the last ESEA rewrite, the Republican [bill] would turn back the clock on our public education system.”
House Democrats, EdWeek reports, lament the lack of cooperation shown thus far in reauthorizing the ESEA:
Nearly a dozen of the Democrats’ 16 members attended the event, during which they heard from a variety of education stakeholders about how best to rewrite the federal K-12 law, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. But more importantly, they got to air their disappointment with what they see as a legislative process that is outright excluding them. "Regrettably, the majority has chosen to approach this task before us without affording the whole committee [the chance] to hear from experts," said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the ranking member of the committee. "It's important to note that No Child Left Behind, like the six reauthorizations that came before it, was achieved in a bipartisan process."
An official statement from the House Democrats also expressed their frustration with the review of ESEA. In a press release from the House Education and the Workforce Committee, the Democrats noted:
“It is important that we make evidence-based policy decisions—we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. The Republican majority has chosen to rewrite ESEA without the benefit of a single hearing, despite evolving research and having twelve new members on our committee,” said Rep. Scott.
As the ESEA reauthorization moves forward, Rep. Scott’s priorities for the bill including guaranteeing all students graduate college and career ready, despite background or ZIP code, continued work on the closing persistent achievement gaps, providing supports for at-risk students, providing additional resources to struggling schools while holding them accountable for serving all students, and more. Watch yesterday’s forum below:    
Valentina Payne
Valentina Payne joined Bellwether Education Partners in 2021 as chief of staff to Andy Rotherham on the External Relations team. Prior to Bellwether, she spent seven years at brightbeam, where she most recently served as its chief growth officer, overseeing operations, finance, fundraising, and strategic growth of the organization.

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