GOP Proposal to Reauthorize ESEA Does Too Little to Promote Equity

Some laudable elements, but provisions dilute support for principals

The American Federation of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals—representing school leaders in the nation’s 100,000 elementary, middle, and high schools—issued the following statement is in response to the discussion draft by Sen. Lamar Alexander to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act:

The federal government has an important role in promoting educational equity and excellence, of which the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has historically been the most articulate expression. While we are encouraged by the quick action by leaders of the 114th Congress to update the law, we fear that the current discussion draft proposed by Senator Alexander abdicates the federal role rather than advance it.

The draft contains a number of elements we can support, including the removal of one-size-fits-all accountability, the elimination of the “school turnaround” models, the addition of extended-year graduation rates, and the maintained requirement for data disaggregation. Unfortunately, these elements are overshadowed by larger provisions that will diminish the law’s effectiveness. Expanding the use of Title II funds, for instance, for purposes other than to support teachers and principals—combined with the elimination of the maintenance-of-effort provision and the elimination of programs to enhance literacy, digital learning, and school counseling–will greatly reduce the chances that states will use those funds for anything but budget relief. And the addition of a portability provision for Title I funds might actually exacerbate the inequities faced by disadvantaged students and schools—the very inequities ESEA seeks to remedy.

Perhaps the largest omission is any acknowledgment of the significant role principals play in student achievement. The discussion draft, quite appropriately, focuses on teacher quality, but that quality cannot adequately be maximized and sustained without strong instructional leadership. Principals require a particular set of supports, a reality that often gets lost in the discussion draft language that clusters “principals and other school leaders” together. Yet our concerns go well beyond the semantics. The elimination of the School Leadership program, the omission of a principal residency requirement, and the allowance of out-of-field principal recruitment without teaching experience under Title II undermine principal effectiveness—ultimately to the detriment of the very students who the ESEA intends to support.

As the front-line leaders of school improvement efforts, the nation’s principals have been among the loudest voices agitating for a long-overdue ESEA reauthorization, but the expediency of the reauthorization cannot come at the expense of equity. We look forward to continuing the conversation with members of Congress in the months ahead.

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About AFSA 
The American Federation of School Administrators is the exclusive union for administrators, professionals and supervisors advocating for excellence and equity in all of our schools, workplaces and communities. AFSA members are leaders in their schools and communities and are charged with the privilege and responsibility of helping to mold our nation’s students into successful, mindful individuals. As school leaders, AFSA members are constantly advocating for better public schools and systems of education. AFSA members are active in the labor movement and proudly stand in solidarity with all trade unionists and school administrators. 

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About AFSA
The American Federation of School Administrators is the exclusive union for administrators, professionals and supervisors advocating for excellence and equity in all of our schools, workplaces and communities. AFSA members are leaders in their schools and communities and are charged with the privilege and responsibility of helping to mold our nation’s students into successful, mindful individuals. As school leaders, AFSA members are constantly advocating for better public schools and systems of education. AFSA members are active in the labor movement and proudly stand in solidarity with all trade unionists and school administrators. 

About NASSP
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States and 35 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high-quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils.

About NAESP
Principals are the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning. Since 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has been the leading advocate for elementary and middle level principals in the United States and worldwide. NAESP advances the profession by developing policy, advancing advocacy and providing professional development and resources for instructional leadership, including specialized support and mentoring for early career principals. Key focus areas include pre-K-3 education, school safety, technology and digital learning, and effective educator evaluation. For more information about NAESP, please visit www.naesp.org. NAESP administers the National Principals Resource Center, the American Student Council Association, and the President’s Education Awards & American Citizenship Awards Programs