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Letter to the House Education and the Workforce Committee on “Education and the Nation”

February 09, 2011

Dear Representative:


The National Education Association, representing 3.2 million educators across the nation, would like to share with you some materials in advance of tomorrow’s hearing in the Committee on Education and the Workforce on Education in the Nation: Examining the Challenges and Opportunities Facing America's Classrooms.”  We thank the Committee for holding a hearing on these very important issues; however, we are disappointed that this panel regarding the challenges and opportunities facing America’s classrooms does not include the voice of educators or parents, two of the most critical voices, as well as eyes and ears, on these issues. We look forward to future panels that include these critical stakeholders.

NEA believes it is time to reanalyze and redefine the federal role in education in a way that is consistent with and supportive of the critical role of state and local governments in education, and continues to help state and local governments. Federal leaders have the opportunity to recalibrate the role of the federal government.  They should reassert the original mission of the U.S. Department of Education, but do so in ways that meet the needs of 21st century students. 

The federal government has long had a vital role in supporting public education, ensuring equality of opportunity, and providing targeted assistance. The federal government should be a supporter – not a micro-manager – of state, district, and school responsibilities. Schools, districts, and states – not the federal government – are the engines of school transformation.  But to accelerate the pace of transformation, they need sustained resources and well-designed federal policies.

Attached for your information are:

  • NEA Backgrounder – Promote Innovation in Public Schools.  Achieving world-class schools for every student requires fresh approaches and ideas that produce dramatic leaps in achievement and growth among students, educators, and communities. 
  • NEA Policy Brief -- Charter Schools: Proceed Deliberately, Monitor Diligently, and Learn What Can Be Scaled UpThere is much to learn from charter school successes as well as failures.  Charter schools have the potential to be incubators of promising educational practices that can be replicated in mainstream schools.  The key is to identify what is working that can be sustained and reproduced on a broad scale so that as many students as possible can benefit.  We need to create more supportive learning environments for educators and students alike in all of our public schools. 
  • NEA Policy Briefs on Private School Vouchers.  Vouchers are often proposed as a means to help children “escape failing public schools.”  A better approach involves strategies to transform schools so they can become enriching environments for teaching and learning and community involvement.  This is far more effective and can even be less expensive than vouchers, which do little or nothing to improve the lives of the students who receive them or the thousands of children they leave behind. 
  • NEA Policy Brief – Subsidizing Private Education at Taxpayer Expense.  NEA opposes tax incentives to subsidize private education because they reduce our ability to create and sustain great public schools while providing no proven educational benefits.

NEA believes we must provide all students with the skills and knowledge they need for success in college and employment, and to be good citizens in a global economy.  We must also provide every student the supports he or she needs to graduate.  Our agenda for high school reform includes a comprehensive plan that recognizes the needs of all students, and it provides strategies to improve graduation rates, particularly among minority and disadvantaged students.  We support in principle the National Governors Association Graduation Rate proposal. 

We hope this information and the enclosed materials will be useful to you as Congress moves forward on these critical issues.  Thank you for your attention to this important information.

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson
Director of Government Relations

Mary Kusler
Manager of Federal Advocacy