NCLB Reauthorization: Where Was Duncan?
The passage of Harkin-Enzi #ESEA out of committee last night was a victory for the committee (protecting its turf against the waiver option), conservatives and teachers unions and bureaucrats (a rollback of federal oversight over school performance), and innovation-oriented moderate Republican reformers (getting Washington out of the way). Perhaps reform opponents will also consider it a victory (fewer sanctions from the meanies in Washington, the end of NCLB), too. But is Harkin-Enzi better than current law, or even the waiver option that's waiting in the wings? I'm not so sure. Civil rights and disability groups certainly seemed not to think so. And so did Arne Duncan, though there was no full court press that I saw. Duncan expressed his disappointment in the legislation on Monday but then went off to push the $35B teachers/first responders package (which failed last night). Was there a desperate but ultimately ineffective behind the scenes effort to improve Harkin-Enzi from the Duncan folks and the White House, or do they want any bill they can get (see Mike Petrilli here), or are they just hoping that this all falls apart on the Senate floor and in the House so that they can do the waiver thing? Others may know better but from afar the Duncan effort to restore accountability to the reauthorization vehicle seemed lackluster and ineffective.