NEA President: ESEA Reauthorization Must Focus on Equity in Education

When the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee meets on Thursday to take a closer look at NCLB waivers, Pam Geisseihardt will be hanging on every syllable spoken by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and several state education chiefs who are scheduled to testify. And she will be wishing she were there in the hot seat, again.

“Oh, gosh, I would love to talk to those people again and tell them what the real world is like,” says Geisseihardt, Gifted and Talented coordinator for the Adair County School District in Columbia, Kentucky. An educator for 28 years, Geisseihardt spoke before the HELP Committee in 2011 on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind.

“They need to get down to the grassroots and hash things out,” she says. “The closer the discussion gets to the target group, that is, local schools and districts, the better.”

The National Education Association welcomes the hearing as a catalyst to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As such, NEA urges legislators to address ESEA reauthorization issues by focusing on ensuring equity, updating accountability requirements based on multiple measures that emphasize and support school improvement, and providing sustainable support and technical assistance for priority schools. NEA will continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive bill that works for students and reflects the important federal role of ensuring equity while working with states and local school districts to support the public education system.

“Much of the decision-making about schools should be at the state and local levels. There needs to be a balance,” says Geisseihardt, president of the Adair County Education Association and member of the Kentucky Association of School Counsels.

Educator Pam Geisseihardt spoke before the HELP Committee in 2011.

The reauthorization of ESEA would force legislators to make key changes in the law that helps transform public schools into high-quality learning centers by recognizing the shared responsibility among local, state, and federal governments.

“We must remain open to ideas, especially those that are driven by evidence,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “And we should especially focus on ideas that will help our lowest achieving students stay in school, be inspired, learn, achieve, and graduate to become productive members in our democratic society.”

NEA urges legislators to complete the reauthorization of ESEA to ensure full equity for students who sometimes come to school hungry, who have no books at home, and no safe place to study after school.

“Students’ success in school today depends in large part on the zip code on where they live,” says Van Roekel. “We must break the cycle of leaving generations of students behind.”

Among other agenda items, the Senate HELP Committee and Administration officials are scheduled to discuss NCLB waivers, “which are serving as a needed, temporary stopgap measure to help public schools avoid some of the harshest unintended consequences of NCLB,” says Van Roekel.

“Only a full reauthorization of ESEA will provide each student in the public school system with the necessary support and resources they need to learn and prosper,” he says. “We know that our public education system is critical to democracy. We know that a strong public education system can maximize the achievement, skills, opportunities and potential of all students by promoting their strengths and addressing their needs.  We also know that the pathway from poverty to and beyond America’s great middle class runs through the classrooms of public schools and institutions of higher education.”

For more on NEA’s positive agenda on ESEA reauthorization visit