Letter to the Congressional Black Caucus on No Child Left Behind
October 29, 2007
On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, I would like to take this opportunity to express what my hopes have been, and continue to be, regarding reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently referred to as No Child Left Behind.
I was pleased to testify in March before a joint hearing of the House and Senate education committees, delivering a message from our members about the need for a "renewed national discussion about public education." As I told those committees, "our elected officials have an opportunity to lift up this dialogue, to be bold, to embrace not only the call for equity in American education, but the demand for innovation as well." It is in that spirit, and with the knowledge that the Congressional Black Caucus has long advocated for equity and adequacy of educational resources and opportunities, that I write to express clearly the sentiments of the 3.2 million members of the NEA.
Educators are tired of "reforms" that claim to address both adequate and equitable services and resources that, in reality, address neither. This administration has failed miserably to provide the resources necessary to ensure equitable access to essentials such as up-to-date materials; broad, rich curricula; safe, modern facilities; and small class sizes. Until we make a commitment as a nation to ensure every child these basic rights, reform efforts, however well-intended, will be significantly impeded or impossible.
Our members are clear: they do not want to see a bill from this Congress that mistakes fast policy for good policy, and they certainly do not want to live with the ramifications of hasty action. They fear that a reauthorization bill that only addresses some of the flaws of current law will exacerbate and compound existing problems in the field. A quick reauthorization that simply tweaks the current Adequate Yearly Progress system is not the only option. Congress can take the time to craft bold legislation that protects the rights of students and educators and helps them both to be successful. Congress can choose to make the sweeping changes necessary to do more than just fix a fundamentally flawed accountability system but to create an educational system that gives every child equal access to services and tools necessary for success.
While I understand that any reauthorization process is a fluid one, and appreciate the House Education and Labor Committee's open, transparent process, I urge each member of the Congressional Black Caucus to consider ESEA reauthorization as an opportunity to realize this bold vision for every child and to avoid settling for any plan that fails to live up to this high standard.
As always, I look forward to working with the CBC overall and with each of you individually to help make that a reality.
Reg Weaver, President, National Education Association