Senate must finish House's good start on education law

By David Baird and Durward Narramore

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act, H.R. 5, by a vote of 221-207.

The Kentucky School Boards Association extends its gratitude for supporting this landmark legislation to Reps. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, Ed Whitfield. R-Hopkinsville, Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, and Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg.

The National School Boards Association, which represents more than 90,000 local school board members, supported this bill. H.R. 5 represents the House's approach to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, most recently known as the No Child Left Behind Act. Despite positive features, some of No Child Left Behind's requirements unfortunately have eroded public confidence in our public schools.

The rationale for local school board support is clear. Overall, H.R. 5 restores greater authority and governance to states and local school boards, rather than to the federal government, to create and implement innovative approaches to improve the academic performance of our students.

H.R. 5 also builds on the constructive features of the current law while eliminating many requirements that were costly, burdensome and had little if any positive impact on improving student achievement. In so doing, H.R. 5 supports states and their local school districts to develop effective standards, valid and reliable aligned assessments, public reporting on school performance including disaggregated data, locally-driven measures to measure teacher effectiveness, locally-driven initiatives for parent and family engagement, and accountability systems that make sense educationally and operationally.

H.R. 5 is by no means a perfect bill. It includes provisions that would cap funding for public education at a time when there should be increased investments in our nation's future. It also includes provisions that would eliminate "maintenance of effort" — the requirement that states continue allocating public education funds at no less than 90 percent of the current amount. These two provisions, if included in the final legislation, could be devastating to local communities and to our school children.

We have one more opportunity to address these provisions. The Senate's bill to reauthorize ESEA, Strengthening America's Schools, S. 1094, has yet to come to the floor for a vote. Our local communities have a great opportunity to reach out to our senators and urge them to:

■ Restore greater flexibility and governance to local school boards consistent with the House bill.

■ Schedule S. 1094 for a floor vote in September.

■ Include provisions in the Senate bill that would continue maintenance of effort requirements and eliminate any arbitrary caps on the federal investment in education.

We need Kentuckians to call Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule the floor vote on S. 1094 for September. Local school boards want ESEA reauthorization now.

David Baird is interim executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association and Durward Narramore is president of the Kentucky School Boards Association and a member of the Jenkins Independent School Board.