State and Local Leaders Urge Congress to Reauthorize ESEA

State and local groups representing a wide range of interests sent a letter Thursday to Capitol Hill, urging Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

State and local groups united in a letter sent Thursday to Capitol Hill, urging Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Leaders from the National Governors Association, National Conference of States Legislatures, Council of State Governments, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, United States Conference of Mayors, International City/County Management Association, National Association of State Boards of Education, Council of Chief State School Officers and National School Boards Association signed the letter. It was addressed to House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Bills have passed out of committee in both the House and the Senate, but have yet to be taken up on the chamber floors. They share some similarities, such as eliminating the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) system established in No Child Left Behind, the ESEA's latest incarnation. They would also shift more responsibility back to state and local education agencies. But a final bill would likely require cooperation across parties and chambers to be passed.

In the meantime, the Obama Administration has initiated a waiver program: States are exempted from AYP requirements as long as they commit to reforms dictated by the White House. Thirty-seven states have applied for a waiver so far. State and local leaders have praised the effort as necessary, but have repeatedly said that reauthorization legislation is necessary to fully fix the law.

"Policymakers at the state, local and school district level need a resolution to these issues," the letter's signers said. "We need certainty in federal policy at a time when we are struggling with reallocating scarce education resources to fund what works. We need federal policy that instead of focusing on process and compliance, allows for state and local innovation."

They asked Congress to pass a reauthorization bill before its current session ends. The full letter is below.

Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.