NCSL Joins with Fellow State & Local Governance Organizations to Call on Congress to Reauthorize the Elementary & Secondary Education Act Before Congress Adjourns in 2012.


Click here for printer friendly version (pdf)

May 3, 2012 

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House 
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Speaker Boehner, Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, and Representative Pelosi:

As state and local officials committed to ensuring that 49 million American school children are prepared for success in life, we urge you to complete the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The House Education and the Workforce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have passed bills, and the House and Senate need to move their respective bills to the floor for action if there is any chance of having reauthorization accomplished before the 112th Congress adjourns.

ESEA’s last reauthorization as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) had a commendable intent—to identify the unmet needs of all children in our schools and to promote education reform—but was also flawed. It shifted too much control away from state and local elected officials, diluted the impact of federal resources, and relied on a method of identifying academic progress that focused on failure instead of rewarding excellence. Ten years later, it is past time to rewrite the law and correct its mistakes.

Policymakers at the state, local and school district level need a resolution to these issues. 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.

Without changes to NCLB, many states turned to the immediate flexibility offered by the U.S. Department of Education through the waiver process.  However, waivers only provide temporary relief from specific provisions of the law and leave states that face challenges in meeting the reform criteria for obtaining a waiver struggling to meet the unreasonable requirements of NCLB.  Federal policy must not set up a system that disadvantages some states and some students.

We deeply appreciate the leadership you have already shown, and realize that completing a complex piece of legislation like ESEA is a difficult task. By moving these bills to conference, Congress can act in a bicameral and bipartisan fashion to craft an ESEA reauthorization that secures the reforms necessary to ensure our nation's children have the best chance to succeed.

To this end, we urge all members of Congress to work with you and prioritize our nation’s education system as “must pass” legislation. We stand ready to work with you to complete ESEA reauthorization so that every state, district, school, and student may benefit from a federal elementary and secondary education law that works.


Dan Crippen, Executive Director
National Governors Association

William T. Pound, Executive Director
National Conference of State Legislatures

David Adkins, CEO and Executive Director
The Council of State Governments

Larry E. Naake, Executive Director
National Association of Counties

Donald J. Borut, Executive Director
National League of Cities

Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director
United States Conference of Mayors

Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director
Council of Chief State School Officers 

Robert J. O'Neill, Jr., Executive Director
International City/County Management Association