When it comes to the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (or ESSA), we can cheer for this big score leading to a victory over some of the lasting remnants of No Child Left Behind legislation. But like the athlete who dances in the end zone too early in the game, we have a great deal of ground to gain before this game is over.
First, congratulations to many from “both sides of the aisle” who finally made this happen. The new law does rid education leaders of a number of the persistent roadblocks that most of us have been harping about for many years. And most important, the Act adds more flexibility as well as state and local control to hammer out the details of what it can do for or do to your system.
And Therein Lies the Rub
I have worked in the Washington, D.C. environment for 3 decades. Even though NSPRA primarily works with local school districts and agencies, we know the reaction and the “look” you may have when federal officials greet you saying, “We’re from Washington and we are here to help you.”
And we also realize the recent track record that some states’ legislative bodies and their state departments of education have on making great decisions for the children in their states. But in some states, outside political funders have targeted their money to elect state and even local officials who will pass legislation to cut budgets for local education and or to reallocate resources to finance their “legislatively blessed” programs. Just ask our NSPRA colleagues in some of the higher profile states of Arizona and North Carolina to name just two areas under attack.
Let’s Do It to Them Before They Do It to Us
So, what are we to do?
Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.
Instead of expounding on that here, to make my point, I’ve reached back — way back in the annals of television history — to the award-winning police drama, Hill Street Blues. Catch the nuance of the “Do It to Them…” phrase.
So, with that message in mind, what’s next is to become proactive in collaborating with your state department and perhaps provide a barking watchdog role on your state legislators and their legislation when needed.
As we have noted in the past, ask yourself, “Who’s for kids and who’s just kidding?”
And don’t sit back and wait for new “regs” to be handed to you — because it will be too late by the time you get them. ESSA becomes effective during the 2017-2018 school year.
The beauty of the new legislation is that your state will work with locals to develop how ESSA actually plays out in your state. Collectively, local leaders can make a huge difference if we get our local acts together with parents, staff, and community leaders. There is time and that time is now.
Don’t fumble this great opportunity to help shape the future of education in your state. No last-minute “Hail Mary pass” is needed. Just grind it out one forceful communication and collaboration at a time and then it may finally be time to dance in your end zone.
Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director
Tip: Education Week provided a practical summary of the new ESSA Act.