By: Steve Drake, Principal, Steven Drake Associates, LLC.
During the Conference itself, Education Industry Days' participants had plenty of expert Hill and Administration voices from which to draw their conclusions. Senior staffers of both the House and Senate education committees suggested that while chances for bi-partisanship on ESEA reauthorization are good, little significant progress has been made in either committee to date, given the focus on deficit reduction and orienting freshman Members of Congress to education policy.
Beltway policy insiders did make the strong case to the attendees to get involved in the political process NOW by meeting with their elected officials. Local school officials have been on the Hill for months now pleading for more flexibility for NCLB mandates, including SES. Andrew Rotherham, of WhiteBoard Advisors even proclaimed that "they [Congressional Democrats] don't like you", referring to many SES providers at the EIA conference. All of the speakers from the Hill and from policy shops in DC made the same point repeatedly -- you have to educate your elected officials to understand that what you are doing makes a real difference for student achievement.
Representing the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Education, Scott Pearson told attendees in the final Education Industry Days session that ESEA reauthorization remains a priority for the Obama Administration, and outlined the Department's principles for what it calls "College and Career-Ready Students." Pearson said that its three key steps toward that goal include "local flexibility" in responding to individual school needs; "rewarding success" for schools making the greatest gains; and "responding to the greatest challenges," for schools in the bottom 5% or 10% of achievement, or those with stagnant achievement gaps between groups of students.
Pearson also outlined the Department and Obama Administration's aggressive budget request for education support programs, including nearly $4 billion to help create, improve, and better distribute excellent teachers, principals and education leaders; $1.1 billion to make more rigorous standards in literacy, science, math and other subjects meaningful in the classroom; $1.8 billion for programs designed to ensure successful, safe and healthy learning environments; and almost $2.5 billion to help foster innovation and excellence, including $1.35 billion and $500 million, respectively, for the Administration's signature "Race to the Top" and "Investing in Innovation" programs.
"The bottom line for EIA and our members is this: we must continue to make our voices heard here in Washington, we must continue to run the highest-quality programs in areas such as SES and school management, and we must not take any program or promise for granted," said Pines. "Yes, we need to continue to fight for attention and respect, and yes, it's worth it."
About the Contributor
Steve Drake provides corporations, small businesses, non-profits and government agencies with targeted, expert and cost-effective communications, marketing and business development strategy and implementation. He holds both a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, where he currently serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication. He speaks and writes on a range of communications topics, including public relations in China, international public relations, and strategic thinking.