(Atlanta, Georgia) – With the potential reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) nearing a critical junction, a delegation of Southern states’ legislative education committee chairs traveled to Washington, D.C. between November 4-5, 2015, for meetings with influential members of Congress involved with the reauthorization process, as well as a policy session with key staff from the legislative and executive branches and a Washington, D.C-based nonprofit educational research organization.
The delegation, organized by the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), in collaboration with CSG’s Washington, D.C. Office, focused on securing a more detailed timeline for the passage of ESEA, determining the potential outcomes of the compromise that will be reached by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for the versions passed by each chamber, voicing a need for states to gain greater flexibility from federal educational oversight,examining how the groundbreaking legislation will affect state educational systems and governments, and preparing for the potentially significant changes to federal educational policy.
Led by state Senator Dolores Gresham of Tennessee, chair of the SLC Education Committee and chair of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee, the delegation comprised state Representative Tom Dickson of Georgia, vice chair of the SLC Education Committee and chair of the Georgia House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education; state Representative Rita Allison, chair of the South Carolina House Education and Public Works Committee; state Senator Dave Sypolt, chair of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee; and state Representative Kathryn Swan, chair of the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
During their Washington, D.C. visit, delegation members met and discussed the ESEA reauthorization and related matters with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP); U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, majority member on the Senate HELP Committee; Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, majority member on the Senate HELP Committee; Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri; Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Congressman Alex Mooney of West Virginia and Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
During an afternoon policy session, several policy experts and key government officials provided further insights into the current status of ESEA reauthorization and the positions of the executive and legislative branches that ultimately must approve any compromise. From the U.S. Department of Education, Emma Vadehra, chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Simone Hardeman-Jones, special assistant in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs, provided the view of the administration; David Cleary, chief of staf to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and the majority staff director of the Senate HELP Committee, provided the majority view of the U.S. Senate; and Chad Aldeman, associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, provided a view from the nonprofit educational research sector.