Sorry, Folks, ESEA Reauthorization Just Got Much Harder

Some folks are claiming that news that House Speaker John Boehner will step down at the end of October makes an ESEA reauthorization more likely this fall. That’s just crazy talk. Here’s just a smattering of the list of things the House has on its plate right now:

  • Fund the entire government, which must be done by next Wednesday. (Boehner’s move may make a short-term fix more likely, but we’re still going to need another budget deal by December.)
  • Fund the highway trust fund, which expires at the end of October. After that, states would not be able to go ahead with any new federally funded transportation projects.
  • Increase the federal debt limit, which will be reached later this fall.
  • Elect a new Speaker.

I could go on: Business leaders want Congress to renew the Export-Import Bank and Democrats want to raise the budget caps set in place by the budget sequester. So even though ESEA is 8 (coming up on 9) years overdue for reauthorization, it’s not a matter of dire urgency like these other things are.

Those are pure logistics, but the politics of ESEA don’t get any easier with Boehner’s departure. In fact, they’re a sign that the politics are much harder than anyone had admitted publicly. The House GOP barely passed its version of a bill, the Student Success Act, on a party-line vote earlier this summer. That bill was barely conservative enough for the House GOP (passing just 218-213), and President Obama and Democrats in the Senate signaled they would not sign off on that bill, which lacks protections for students or taxpayers. Boehner’s departure has likely already set off a leadership crisis behind closed doors, and the next Speaker is going to have an even tougher time trying to broker compromise. And I haven’t even mentioned next year’s presidential elections, which will heat up as we get closer to the actual voting that begins in February.

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander told the Washington Post he’s eyeing Thanksgiving for a potential deal, but that will come squarely amidst all these other fights. Worse, a new Speaker of the House will be just weeks into the job. I’d be extremely surprised if that person wants to cut a deal on education with President Obama and Senate Democrats as his or her their first orders of business. My best guess: Boehner’s departure pushes ESEA reauthorization back until 2017 or 2018.

One thought on “Sorry, Folks, ESEA Reauthorization Just Got Much Harder

  1. Bruce William Smith

    A lot of educators really don’t care about the odds-making obsession of education insiders, as if education politics were a spectator sport; we would just like to see a problem created by insiders in Washington, D.C. fixed by the successors of those people, so my comment will focus on what (I believe) should happen rather than what is likely to happen. I hope (and, incidentally, also think it kind of likely) that the House will now dig in its heels about removing as much of NCLB as is practically possible in this Congress, and will work to remove what remains in the next. If the Democrats — and here I am thinking of the Senate, since I’ve long since given up hope on the secretary of education and those influenced by him — want to filibuster or veto an improved bill emerging from reconciliation because they are still married to the delusion that NCLB is protecting any “students or taxpayers” — such people having completely forgotten about Ferguson and the numerous districts resembling it, having forgotten America’s comparatively miserable and declining learning results purchased at the highest price in the world, and having obviously not spent much time in an urban American classroom in recent history — and want to go on record as the last defenders of George W. Bush’s obviously inadequate approach to establishing social justice by means of reforming education only, let them, and let them feel the wrath of the voting public in the next election as they risk becoming even more thoroughly established as the minority party, out of power in the White House as well as in Congress.

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