Senate Begins Bipartisan Attempt to Reauthorize ESEA with New ELT Provisions

This is a guest post by David Goldberg, NCTL's Director of Federal Policy & National Partnerships.  

Last week, Senator Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced a comprehensive bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The bill is the first significant attempt in four years to update the nation’s main public education law, and with changes made today to its teacher and principal evaluation provisions it picked up substantial bipartisan support on the committee.

We are especially encouraged by the HELP committee bill’s emphasis on expanded learning time. Chairman Harkin and the Ranking Republican, Senator Enzi, with wide support from committee members of both parties, have incorporated major portions of the TIME Act, NCTL’s flagship bill that would support comprehensive expanded time school reform, into the bill. The new provisions would give local communities the flexibility to use federal funding to support expanded-time schools that add 300 hours a year for all students for additional core academic support, enrichment classes, and teacher planning and professional development to improve instruction and raise student achievement.

This legislation comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s new waiver plan, which also created significant new flexibility and encouraged the use of federal funds to create expanded-time schools. The proposed ESEA reauthorization bill demonstrates the broad consensus that has emerged in support of ELT as a powerful whole-school reform approach. Well-designed expanded-time schools can efficiently integrate the kind of high-quality community partners that make afterschool programs successful. Integrating programs into an expanded school day helps connect them to the curriculum, gives more students access to them, and raises attendance rates. A well-designed ELT school also reforms, improves, and enriches the entire school day.

The Senate HELP committee has scheduled hearings to consider amendments to the bill this week, beginning Wednesday morning and possibly continuing for the rest of the week. We’ll bring you any updates on ELT and the fate of the bill as it moves through the Senate.