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ESEA PRECURSOR?: Hunter Introduces Bill to Eliminiate Forty-Three Federal Education Programs

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“The bill introduced today would substantially reduce federal support for the nation’s students.”

On May 13, Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, introduced new legislation that would eliminate forty-three federal education programs, including Striving Readers, Smaller Learning Communities, High School Graduation Initiative, and Enhancing Education Through Technology (Ed-Tech). (See complete list of programs that would be eliminated under Hunter’s bill.)

“It’s time to trim the fat,” Hunter said . “[This] legislation … will eliminate—not consolidate, not defund, but eliminate—forty-three wasteful K–12 education programs. At a time when approximately one-third of American fourth graders can’t read, we must concentrate on education initiatives that have a track record of putting the needs of students first.”

In a statement, Alliance President Bob Wise acknowledged that not every federal education program is effective, but expressed opposition to Hunter’s bill. “The bill introduced today would substantially reduce federal support for the nation’s students,” Wise said. “At a time when most jobs require at least some postsecondary education, but one-quarter of students do not even graduate from high school on time, our investments in education need to be wiser—not fewer. We should make better use of limited federal education dollars, not simply by eliminating a host of programs, but by bringing greater coherence to federal education policy. This should be done through a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

Hunter’s bill, the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act, is the first in a series of education reform bills planned by the House Education and the Workforce Committee as it works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind. Late last year, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) hinted that it is more likely that ESEA reauthorization will move in a piecemeal fashion, title-by-title, or issue-by-issue, rather than through the large, comprehensive, several-thousand-page bills that have been the norm.

Writing for Education Week , Alyson Klein notes that House Republicans are also working on a bill that would provide more funding flexibility to school districts by allowing them to move all of the money out of a particular funding stream and transfer it to another. She writes that President Obama’s goal of having ESEA reauthorized by the start of the next school year remains “cloudy.” She adds that bipartisan talks are ongoing in the Senate, but “lawmakers are still puzzling over issues at the heart of the ESEA, including just what the federal role in school improvement and accountability should be.” Klein quotes Carmel Martin, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the U.S. Department of Education, who says the administration is “concerned” that reauthorization is not moving more quickly, but complimented lawmakers on their commitment to moving a bill forward.

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